March 22, 2011

Google and the Human Touch

Leading a team is really hard. Can Google help?

Two weeks ago, the New York Times ran an article on Google’s 8-Point Plan to Build a Better Boss. The 8-Point Plan was the fruit of a two-year project in which a team analyzed Google performance reviews, feedback surveys and nominations for top-manager awards. The goal? To produce a list of the 8 practices of highly effective Google managers. You can find that list here.

As the Times article points out, at first glance the eight practices seem so obvious that they are underwhelming. (The seventh point is “Have a clear vision and strategy for your team.”) But what makes Google’s list unique is how these practices are ranked. So, for instance, we learn that expressing interest in team members’ success and well-being is more important than having a clear vision & strategy. Both are vital, of course, but it’s interesting to note the top three are all about the human touch.

Now, I realize that Google runs differently than your average Episcopal church. I also realize that the relationship between managers and employees is very different than the mix of a few staff members and teams of volunteers that fuel the work of most Episcopal churches. And yet, as someone who is struggling to learn how to lead two volunteer committees, I must say I’m finding this list immensely helpful.

Here are some initial insights based on the article and list. I’d love to hear yours so please add them in the comments below:

Learn How To Provide Helpful Feedback
I’m struck by the fact that the ability to provide “specific, constructive feedback, balancing the negative and positive” in regular one-on-one sessions is ranked as #1 on this list. It leads me to wonder about how performance evaluations are handled in our churches, on our committees, on vestries, etc. How can we not shy away from offering constructive feedback and learn how to do this skillfully? What kinds of resources are there for doing this in a church setting?

What are you emphasizing?
I must admit that the rankings of many of these practices surprised me. Had I been asked to rank them myself, my list would have appeared very different. This has proven to be a very good exercise for me in terms of thinking about what I value in leadership, in other leaders and why. What would you have placed as your #1? What would’ve been your #8? Might this nudge you to develop new skill sets?