Google has recently completed an ambitious project entitled Project Oxygen to try and rank the traits of a good manager, using an employee opinion survey and system analysis of its own HR data from appraisals, exit interviews, hiring records and the like.  Google found that managers had a much greater impact on employees’ performance and how they felt about their job than any other factor.  “The starting point was that our best managers have teams that perform better, are retained better, are happier – they do everything better,” Mr. Bock, VP said.  So what can a small employer learn from the lessons of this IT giant?

The final result was a list of the top 8 management qualities, many of which are not likely to surprise anyone; however, there are still some interesting findings.  Many firms who hire professionals, engineers or technical staff will have been through the dilemma of whether or not the manager of a department needs to have as deep or deeper technical skills than the individuals they manage.  In many cases this technical skill set may be mutually exclusive to the one required for a successful man-manager but in most companies the head of department will have been promoted because they were the most technically skilled individual.  Google had been under the impression that technical skills, particularly in engineering fields, were of upmost importance.  The analysis has shown that this is the least important thing and pales into insignificance compared to just being accessible.


  • provides feedback does not micro-manage
  • shows interest in wellbeing
  • is productive and results oriented
  • communicates and listens
  • aids career development
  • has a vision and strategy
  • has technical skills

Communication in a number of guises is clearly critical: from the coaching style, where managers provide staff with the opportunity to develop under their guidance providing supporting feedback whether it is negative or positive, to the more traditional skill of keeping employees informed of what is going on, not only in the department but also in the company as a whole.  Listening and of course acting upon what a manager hears is essential for creating an environment where everyone feels that they have something to contribute which is valued.

Google has taken these qualities and provided all managers with coaching to develop these skills.  They have also highlighted traits which are counterproductive such as managers hiring in their own image; conducting performance reviews that reflect one bad, recent experience rather than the previous weeks/months of excellent work; and the „halo/horns‟ effect where one personal trait e.g. Appearance, clouds everything else about a person.

The company has claimed it has improved the performance of 75% of its worst performing managers by spotting the traits of a bad manager – an individual contributor who deals with staff inconsistently and spends too little time managing and communicating – coaching all managers in the top 8 leadership qualities and providing tools for feedback.

Do you recognise any of these traits?  Could your company benefit from identifying and developing its management skills? If so contact Anita Wynne at Beststart HR on or Tel: 01438 747 747.