Effective Management: The Evidence Google Can (and Cannot) Find

April 7, 2011 by Yosh Beier

As recently reported by the New York Times, Google unleashed its analytical power in-house as a part of Google’s management effectiveness project. Putting its data mining experts to work, Google dug through thousands of performance reviews and other forms of data evaluating managers’ effectiveness in its “quest to build a better boss”. (NY Times, Mar-12-2011)

What new and heretofore overlooked managerial qualities would a company identify, you may wonder, that has for many years been named one of the most innovative organizations? That relies heavily on technology and innovation? That brings together a broad range of creative, interdisciplinary experts? That thrives within ever faster innovation cycles? That embraces work style diversity, decentralized collaboration, and virtual team work?

The number one differentiator between managers doing a “good” versus a “great” job are those qualities that make managers “accessible” to their staff. This involves active listening, coaching staff and supporting their career development, and being interested in staff members’ success and well-being. (Full list here.)

That effective social & emotional skills trump technical expertise in management effectiveness is no real surprise to those of us in the world of organizational effectiveness: In fact, the response of literally all organizational development and leadership professionals with whom I discussed this study responded “yes,this is just what we have been saying all along”.

So do Google’s findings matter? They do and here is why:

Regardless of whether it is “Business 1.0” or “Business 3.0” – The main challenges of effective management lie in the successful demonstration of “people skills”.

It is still a common push-back among many leaders and organizations that too much emphasis on “people stuff” deters from getting the job done. A polite interest in people development is expressed, but that is “HR stuff”, not a core value discipline, and after all “we are results-driven”. Google’s findings dismantle this dichotomy between people- and results-focus.

Business leaders expect – rightfully – an “evidence-based” approach to people effectiveness. “Should we really focus that much on ‘soft factors’?” Google’s findings show that indeed we should!

I am certain the Google project team would have been happy to find something entirely new. Which researcher wouldn’t like that? But by compiling a vast and comprehensive data set that highlights “soft skills” as evidence-based success skills, Google makes a strong case for putting healthy people interactions front and center of a successful work culture.

For the most part, we really don’t need yet another “new framework”, or another “Managing-by-XYZ” approach. We know – and have known all along – the crucial pressure points to cultivate high-performing teams. Technical expertise lays the foundation but the quality of people interactions defines the degree of extra-ordinariness. The challenge lies not in finding a heretofore unknown answer – the challenge lies in making it happen, in executing on the promise of people excellence.

It’s an old maxim in the field of decision-consulting that a basic neurosis lies in trying to obtain certainty in a world that is not entirely predictable. All you can really do is analyze and improve your odds. Well, then, in the world of organizational effectiveness, a basic neurosis lies in seeking an ever “new magic” bullet to team and managerial effectiveness. Meanwhile, the answer has been right before our eyes.

Yosh Beier is an executive coach and co-founder of Collaborative Coaching LLC. He blogs at Collaborative Thinking.

Posted in Engagement, Relate

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