The Science of Management

Depiction of an oxygen atom

The results are in: management matters.  The data-junkies at Google have the numbers to show that you need more than technical knowledge to run a successful business. You need leaders who can coach, empathize, encourage, and inspire.  These seemingly unmeasurable skills make all the difference.

The most striking aspect of the Google research, done under the name Project Oxygen, is that it highlights eight managerial “good behaviors” that, even without sifting through the company’s database of 10,000 observations, you might have guessed are important.  Number one is being a good coach, followed by empowering and being interested in your people, focusing on results, communicating well, promoting career development, and having a clear vision.  The least important of the eight: having technical knowledge.

Google’s Vice President for “people operations,” Laszlo Bock, describes the practical import of the research in the simplest terms.  He says that good managers are “accessible” and have a “connection” with their people.  You might rightly conclude that being connected is the oxygen that keeps work flowing.

Coaching expert Marshall Goldsmith has reached similar conclusions in his research, with an interesting twist.  Peers have a major impact on your development and performance, just as managers do.  By sharing your goals with colleagues and regularly following up with them, you can improve your skills, motivation, and effectiveness.  Goldsmith reviewed data from eight major companies, whose development programs included thousands of participants.  His fundamental insight was stunningly basic: “Personal contact mattered – and mattered greatly.”

The data gathered by Goldsmith and the Google researchers establishes an essential human point: leadership is a relationship.  It is, as Goldsmith puts it, a “contact sport.”  Just like any sport, you have to practice it.  The more you do, the more “lung capacity” you have for the oxygen needed to deliver results.