Google Discovers (Rediscovers) Soft Skills – These Simply Cannot Be Ignored
(Thanks to Tom Pearce, from iLead, for putting me on to this. The article actually came out back in Spring, 2011. But, I suspect, we all have things to learn, to change, and then do).
Here’s the big mistake. Companies have bought too fully into the “leave them alone” approach. But, leaving people alone does not actually bring out the best in people. People do not do really well without help and encouragement. Google has now set this “discovery” into policy.
Call this the old “soft skills vs. hard skills” spectrum. And, I think this approach at Google sort of views it this way – hard skills are assumed, but soft skills have to be constantly attended to…
In Adam Bryant’s Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss (New York Times – a really good article!), we read this:
For much of its 13-year history, particularly the early years, Google has taken a pretty simple approach to management: Leave people alone. Let the engineers do their stuff. If they become stuck, they’ll ask their bosses, whose deep technical expertise propelled them into management in the first place.
But Mr. Bock’s group found that technical expertise — the ability, say, to write computer code in your sleep — ranked dead last among Google’s big eight. What employees valued most were even-keeled bosses who made time for one-on-one meetings, who helped people puzzle through problems by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who took an interest in employees’ lives and careers.
“Took an interest.” That’s really it – take an interest.
Consider the Olympics. Watch the interaction between athletes and coaches. Do you think these coaches interact, have input, take an interest? You bet.
What Google did was boil this approach down to eight good “behaviors.” These are behaviors – things leaders/supervisors/managers actually do! The New York Times has it in a great graphic, with brief description/elaboration (click here), but here are the eight:
The Eight Good Behaviors
#1 – Be a good coach
#2 – Empower your team and don’t micromanage
#3 – Express interest in team members’ success and personal well-being
#4 – Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented
#5 – Be a good communicator and listen to your team
#6 – Help your employees with career development
#7 – Have a clear vision and strategy for the team
#8 – Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team
And – Three Pitfalls of Managers
#1 – Have trouble making a transition to the team
#2 – Lack a consistent approach to performance and career development
#3 – Spend too little time managing and communication
So, here’s the takeaway to me. Managers have to view their team members as people. Real people. With human needs, who want to be noticed and treated as human beings. It reminds me of the great quote from Paul Hawken, quoted in Encouraging the Heart by Kouzes and Posner:
“We lead by being human. We do not lead by being corporate, professional, or institutional.” (Paul G. Hawken, founder, Smith and Hawken).
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