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Google's Project Oxygen Pumps Fresh Air Into Management

The Project Oxygen team found that Google's most successful managers invest significant personal time in building individual and team capabilities. As managers, they "show up" every day.

Project Oxygen identified the most important activity for management success as being a good coach. Google breaks down this construct into holding regular one-on-ones, asking questions rather than dictating answers and providing constructive feedback that balances the negative and positive.

There is no leadership activity more effective than regular one-on-ones. It will improve the performance of virtually every employee in every role.

But effective feedback is a bit more challenging. Think of parenting. Maybe for your oldest child negative feedback must be very strong. But that will crush the spirit of your youngest child. Feedback is an art. In all cases, success requires that children/employees know that they are safe and that you are deeply committed to their success and that you truly love your soldiers.

Of Project Oxygen's eight manager behaviors, number eight was technical skills. Ironically, this is where most managers spend their time. In an interview with the New York Times, Laszlo Bock, Google's senior vice president of People Operations, said in regards to manager technical skills, "It turns out that that's absolutely the least important thing. Much more important is just making that connection and being accessible."

Additionally, Project Oxygen found three manager pitfalls:

1. Have trouble making a transition to the team.

2. Lack a consistent approach to performance management.

3. Spend too little time managing and communicating.

All three are common with managers who continue to behave as technical experts -- those who are too busy "doing" to be "managing." A representative behavior was, "Not proactive; waits for the employee to come to them."

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