The richly detailed guidance, based on company research, shows how Google trains its engineers and others to become leaders of teams.
It’s reportedly normal for Google to train new managers when they’ve been on the job for 45-90 days— in other words, when they’ve already spent time leading their teams. Google discovered that managers are most open to getting better after they’ve started working and have “experience” to draw upon.
Although Google provides an exhaustive amount of training materials on its re:Work blog— including a new manager student workbook, new manager training presentation slides, and a new manager training facilitator guide that you can use at your workplace, all of which you can download as PDFs or open as Google Docs on Drive— here are a few things you can learn.
After all, it’s important for employers not to leave managers— especially first-time ones— in the deep end without any real direction.
How to be a good communicator
Communication at work is a two-way street: employees and managers must be able to have transparent conversations about expectations, assignments and everything in between.
According to Google’s New Manager Project Workbook, Google’s Project Oxygen says that “great” supervisors at the company share eight main characteristics. The research was conducted by Google’s PiLab in 2009, and Gallup research reportedly “confirms similar attributes.”
One of the them is being “a good communicator,” which means both hearing and volunteering information.
A few other factors identified in each “high-scoring manager” are: being “productive” and guided by results, possessing “technical” abilities that can be used to aid the team, and being someone who “empowers” their reports and doesn’t engage in micromanagement.
How to “practice empathic listening”
Google’s New Manager Training Slides explore the topic of listening and couple it with an activity, showing that it boils down to two things— “hearing what the other person is saying” and “noticing other person’s energy, mood, tone of voice.”
A few actions that fall under the first umbrella are: giving your undivided attention to who is speaking, hearing them out, rephrasing what they said into your own words to make sure you have it right and having the person clear up anything you don’t understand.
A few actions that fall under the second umbrella are: paying attention to “your gut/intuition” and identifying what it is, thinking of what the person isn’t communicating out loud, and showing empathy by saying something like, “I hear you are frustrated by XX.”
You can’t expect to lead your team effectively—especially as a new manager, when you’re proving your worth and eagerness to help direct reports and your department succeed—if you don’t listen to each person’s input.
Also keep in mind that being granted a “manager” or “supervisor” title does not mean you’ve automatically learned everything there is to know about your field, so be receptive to perspectives other than yours.
Want to find out more about your team? Do this
The New Manager Student Workbook features a “conversation guide” managers can use to learn more about their employees.
It outlines four steps in detail, in this order: organizing the meeting, learning more about your direct report, how to “open up” the discussion (giving the employee the opportunity to find out more about you, their manager) and how to end it.
Something that stood out in the first section is how to “set the tone and objective” of the gathering. Google provides two sample lines, including: “We’ve gone through a lot of change recently and I want to understand your work style, your history, what you’re passionate about, your career interest and goals, and how I can best support you. We won’t cover everything today but I wanted to at least start the conversation.”
The second section features questions to ask reports about themselves, their work, and how they operate (“working style”), which can be used over the course of multiple one-on-one meetings.
A smart question in “working style” section was this: “How do you like to be managed (e.g., likes structure, loves autonomy, works best alone, wants to be part of a team)?”
It recognizes that there’s no one correct way to work, and each person has their preferences. But it also emphasizes discussion between managers and the people on their teams. It’s that kind of empathy that strengthens morale.
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