Google makes extensive use of surveying to gauge employee sentiment towards managers. They use a very similar tool to Qulturescope, our employee survey tool, that allows leaders to gain a deep understanding of management quality. In order to get the most out of the process, the company needs to set the tone of the survey as constructively as possible:

[Google’s researchers] “argued that if we wanted people to be open-minded and change their behaviors, we had to make this a compassionate tool, focused on development rather than rewards and punishment.”

You can see below that the impact of high managerial quality is self-evident, and great, in the performance of the organization:

1. Managers need to be as technically savvy and capable as their direct reports

“Our hiring credo was that an engineering manager had to be at least as technically capable as her team.xlviii When that wasn’t the case, the manager wasn’t respected and was known as a NOOP, a term borrowed from computer science that means ‘no operation performed.’”

2. Managers need to be “enablers”

Google found that with good managers, direct reports felt that “Career decisions were made fairly. Performance was fairly assessed and promotions were well deserved. Their personal career objectives could be met, and their manager was a helpful advocate and counselor. Work happened efficiently. Decisions were made quickly, resources were allocated well, and diverse perspectives were considered. Team members treated each other non hierarchically and with respect, relied on data rather than politics to make decisions, and were transparent about their work and beliefs. They were appropriately involved in decision-making and empowered to get things done. They had the freedom to manage the balance between work and their personal lives.”

3. Great managers improve employee retention

“Manager quality was the single best predictor of whether employees would stay or leave, supporting the adage that people don’t quit companies, they quit bad managers.”

4. Great managers improve employee performance within teams

“Teams working for the best managers also performed better and had lower turnover.”

5. How great managers perform 1:1 meetings

“Most [managers] don’t hold regular 1:1 meetings where they partner with the employee to diagnose problems and together come up with ideas tailored to the employee’s strengths. Most don’t combine praise and areas to work on. The specific prescription for managers is to prepare for meetings by thinking hard about employees’ individual strengths and the unique circumstances they face, and then use the meeting to ask questions rather than dictate answers.

And unexpectedly, we found that technical expertise was actually the least important of the eight behaviors across great managers. Make no mistake, it is essential. An engineering manager who can’t code is not going to be able to lead a team at Google. But of the behaviors that differentiated the very best, technical input made the smallest difference to teams.”

“Taking ‘Career Conversations’ improves career development ratings by 10 percent, in part by teaching the manager to have a different kind of career conversation with employees. It’s not about having the Googler ask for something and the manager promise to deliver. Instead of a transactional exchange, it’s a problem-solving exercise that ends with shared responsibility. There’s work for both the manager and the Googler to do.”

6. Great managers give constant feedback

”Frank Wagner, who is now one of our key People Operations leaders at Google, in 1994, when we were consultants. In the minutes before every client meeting, he would take me aside and ask me questions: “What are your goals for this meeting?” “How do you think each client will respond?” “How do you plan to introduce a difficult topic?” We’d conduct the meeting, and on the drive back to our office he would again ask questions that forced me to learn: “How did your approach work out?” “What did you learn?” “What do you want to try differently next time?” I would also ask Frank questions about the interpersonal dynamic in the room and why he pushed on one issue but not another. I shared responsibility with him for ensuring I was improving.”