PROJECT OXYGEN

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GENERAL BACKGROUND

Google started in 2008 the Project Oxygen, with the intention to develop a training plan in order to help their managers and team leaders to improve their performance. The project gathered 10,000 manager observations including performance reviews, surveys, and nominations for top-manager awards and recognition. After analyzing the data, Google stumbled upon a realization that surprised many–even its former senior vice president of people operations, Laszlo Bock. Since then, the project is periodically reviewed and updated.

Through employee survey data and performance evaluations, Project Oxygen identified six basic attributes among the highest performing, great, managers. If you are asking why these behaviour are important, just think of the benefit of incorporating these behaviours into your manager trainings to help with outcomes such as turnover, satisfaction, and productivity (engagement).

The report argues that though technical skills are valuable for managers and leaders, these are not the most important ones in comparison to human skills. The research concludes that a team leader or manager must develop high directive skills in six areas:

  • Mindset and values
  • Coaching
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Feedback
  • Manager transition
  • Decision making

After implementing this new-manager training program, Google saw statistically significant improvement in 75% of its underperforming managers. That speaks to the impact these 6 areas have on the effectiveness of new managers. And managers have a major impact on the effectiveness of their teams. So a great new manager can be all the difference for a company. In the words of Andrew Carnegie, “People don’t like to follow leaders who are dedicated only to their own personal glory, but they will sacrifice everything for leaders and communities who give them a higher calling, a greater purpose.’”

1. MINDSET AND VALUES

Mindset is defined as “the established set of attitudes held by someone”, while values are “A person’s principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgment of what is important in life”.

Implementing research from Dr. Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University, Google encourages its managers to develop a growth mindset. As opposed to a fixed mindset (the belief that skills and abilities are predetermined), individuals with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be cultivated. This simple idea develops leaders who are more eager to learn, challenge themselves, and experiment, and it eventually boosts their performance. Although success will always require tenacity, hard work, and concentration, this research suggests these traits are byproducts of a quality that underpins them, optimism.

Also, Google encourages its managers to identify values and leverage them within their management styles. The purpose is not to impose set values, but rather to empower leaders to leverage their individual morals to drive deeper meaning and impact to their work. Managers have to make tough decisions. When faced with uncertainty, values can be a manager’s saving grace.

2. EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize emotions in yourself and others in order to achieve operative results, and leverage this awareness to manage behaviour and relationships. This short description refers to both big areas of EI: intrapersonal (dealing with the internal management of your own emotions) and interpersonal (dealing with the social aspect of human beings and their capacity to interact and establish nurturing relationships with others).

Managers who are emotionally intelligent make better decisions, communicate more effectively, and seem more relatable to employees. They can better control the emotional climate of the workplace by anticipating employees’ needs and creating an environment that supports them. In fact, Daniel Goleman (author of Emotional Intelligence -1995-, and Working with Emotional Intelligence -1998-) reported not only that EI-based leadership may be the most important driver of climate but also that climate may account for 20 to 30% of organizational performance.

3. MANAGER TRANSITION

It refers to the transition from individual contributor to manager. Instructors encourage new supervisors to share their transition challenges and frustrations with their peers, they simultaneously teach that it’s OK to be vulnerable and honest. As managers open up and tell their stories, others chime in with advice and guidance providing actionable new strategies. This not only teaches that it’s ok to be vulnerable and honest, but also encourages others to offer advice and to help devise actionable new strategies.

Though it does not seem like an attribute, as managers open up and tell their stories, others chime in with advice and guidance providing actionable new strategies. Stories that can inspire and motivate people to keep doing the good stuff. This approach helps employees cope up with the transition phobia. It’s important for all managers to know that you’re not in this alone. Others have faced similar challenges and can help — if you let them.

4. COACHING

Coaching is a tailored process in which a coach, through powerful conversations, guides the coachee to define and design his/her own goals and improve his/her performance developing his/her own strategies and unleashing talents and inner potentials.

Through Project Oxygen, it was revealed that the number one quality of effective managers is being a good coach. A good coach nurtures and grows the talent on his/her team. The positive effects impact more than just team performance. Research by the Human Capital Institute and the International Coaching Federation shows that a strong coaching culture increases employee engagement and revenue growth.

Google defines good coaching as:

  1. Timely and specific feedback
  2. Delivering hard feedback in a motivational and thoughtful way
  3. Tailoring approaches to meet individual communication styles in regular one-on-one meetings
  4. Practicing empathetic “active” listening and being fully present
  5. Being cognizant of your own mindset and that of the employee
  6. Asking open-ended questions to discover an employee’s acumen

5. FEEDBACK

Managers’ words have the power to build or destroy. Google understands this sensitivity and teaches its supervisors to be consistent (free from bias) when delivering feedback across their teams, to balance positive (motivational) and negative (developmental) feedback, to be authentic and appreciative, and to state growth opportunities in a clear, compassionate way.

The purpose of feedback is to improve performance and foster professional growth. But words can hurt, and employees can interpret constructive criticism as an attack. Thus, the ability to provide feedback effectively is essential for any manager.

Google teaches new managers to be consistent across their teams when delivering feedback, and to balance the negative with positive. It’s also important to treat these conversations as a dialogue, not a monologue. Being authentic and stating growth opportunities in a clear and compassionate way will build trust between new managers and their employees.

6. DECISION MAKING

To make sure that your judgment doesn’t get clouded, Google has developed a routine to assist managers in making better decisions. The framework includes asking some direct questions, such as:

  • Is everyone on the same page?
  • What are you solving for, and is everyone on the same page? (Identify and communicate the root cause.)
  • Why is this important? (Does it help achieve any business goal?)
  • Who is the ultimate decision-maker?
  • How will the execution be done?
  • When is the expected timeframe for taking this decision?

Also, to ensure informed decisions are made, Google encourages managers to test their ideas out loud and collect feedback by explicitly advocating for their opinions (voicing individual views, reasoning, and providing data), testing their understanding by inquiring about others’ perspectives (soliciting ideas and feedback), and then synthesizing the responses to ensure a comprehensive understanding before making a decision.

Effective leaders take on the tough task of making decisions and, often, with little time to deliberate. Managers make decisions taking into account their personal values, as well as the values of their organization, and they must be consistent over time.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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