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Do Managers Matter?

POSTED ON 
November 4, 2018
  Did you read the title of this blog and wince a bit? I did too. I’ve been a manager for several years and don’t love the idea of people questioning our value. But when I came across an article about Google’s multi-year research project on managers’ value and impact, aka Project Oxygen, I found their results both surprising yet predictable all at once. Causation between good managers and high-performing teams The evaluation started with reviewing manager ratings from an internal survey and performance reviews. The results showed that high-scoring managers have a significant impact on employee job satisfaction, retention and performance as well as innovation, work-life balance and career development (Garvin, 2013, p. 5).  This is something we’ve also found time and again at Brilliant Ink in our own employee research:  So, what makes a high-performing manager?  The team discovered eight common attributes, some of my personal favorites include: 
  1. Being a good coach 
  2. Expressing interests in team members’ success and personal well-being
  3. Helping team members with career development 
  4. Being a good communicator  
  Now, you may be thinking – duh! These are extremely predictable ‘good manager’ traits. But the point of identifying the traits was not just to know them, but to encourage and help managers embody these traits.  Now what?  Using this information, the Project Oxygen team surveyed direct reports to show managers how they scored against each attribute. For low-scoring attributes, managers were offered interactive, specific training that was immediately actionable. There were also panel discussions featuring high-scoring Google managers to share their best practices and ideas. Performance scores were monitored over the next two quarters and to no one’s surprise, scores improved!  So, do managers matter? Undoubtedly, yes! And with candid feedback, good data, the right training and best practice sharing, you can grow and develop some kick-ass, rockstar managers.  Thanks, Google, I knew I had an important job! Reference:  Garvin, D. A., Wagonfeld, A.B., Kind, L. (2013). Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter? Harvard Business School 1-24.   Read more bite-sized brilliance on our LinkedIn and Twitter.
Lindsay McCleary
HEAD OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT

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