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What makes great managers really great? It’s a question that researchers have been asking for years, and it’s one that the re:Work research team at Google recently tackled through a 10 year piece of quantitative research into management behaviour and its’ impact on performance.

The research was conducted by re:Work, a team that produces a collection of practices, research and ideas from Google around the topic of work and the workplace. The initial idea for the management research was sparked by the belief of some of Google’s senior leaders and engineers that managers actually don’t matter, and the quality of a manager doesn’t have an impact on a team’s performance.

But managers do matter

The data quickly proved the initial hypothesis wrong, and through analysis of two quantitative measures (manager performance ratings and manager feedback from the annual employee survey), the research team identified that managers did matter. Great managers had teams who were high performing, happier and more productive.

Top 10 management traits

Using comments from the annual employee survey and a series of double blind interviews with the best and worst managers to find illustrative examples of how these two groups behaved differently, they discovered the following 10 desirable management behaviours.

  1. Is a good coach
  2. Empowers the team and does not micromanage
  3. Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and wellbeing
  4. Is productive and results-oriented
  5. Is a good communicator – listens and shares information
  6. Supports career development and discusses performance
  7. Has a clear vision/strategy for the team
  8. Has key technical skills to help advise the team
  9. Collaborates across Google
  10. Is a strong decision maker

The Oxford Group approach

“A lot of these findings echo The Oxford Group approach to management,” says Nick Cowley, Director at The Oxford Group. “In fact, some of these traits reflect behaviours we draw out and recommend as part of our  5 Conversations programme.”

“It isn’t about simply how bright you are, success as a manager who can effectively lead a team, is about how you show up as a human being and about your behaviours,” says Nick. “In fact, we’d add a few more to these. Being able to lean in and have the difficult conversations when things get tough, and also the power and value of appreciation and building on strengths.”

You can view the research here.

And find out more about 5 Conversations here