What Google’s Mistakes Can Teach Us About Leadership

What Google’s Mistakes Can Teach Us About Leadership

One of the things that Google is famous for is data-based decision making. When they want to find the most effective way to do something, they look at the numbers and work from there. However, even a company as married to analytics as Google is vulnerable to lapses and oversights. Recently, their data showed that their process for hiring and promoting the best managers for the job was all wrong. 

When you look at where Google made their mistake and what they did to correct it, you could save your company some money and heartache and also create a more effective workplace. 

Google’s Error and Assumption

Besides a dedication to data, Google’s other key characteristic is a high regard for technical expertise. Tech savviness was so prized that, historically, it was one of the top factors in whether someone would get promoted to management.

When Google set out to learn whether their hiring and promoting strategy was working, they discovered something interesting: the best managers were not necessarily the ones who were technical experts at all.

After gathering and analyzing data from 10,000 manager observations, they learned that the quality they valued most had almost no bearing on whether someone was a good manager. Instead, soft skills were what made all the difference.

What the Data Says Makes a Good Manager

Google used their large pool of data to identify eight qualities and habits that make great managers. While technical skill was on the list, it was the least important of all the qualities on it. In order of importance, the qualities that make great managers include:

  • Good coaching.
  • Empowering your team to work without micromanaging. A good manager hires good people, then gets out of their way.
  • Interest in employees’ well-being and success. People are more motivated and show greater job satisfaction when they know that the people they work under care about them.
  • A results-oriented and productive outlook.
  • Excellent communication skills, especially good listening.
  • An interest in employees’ career development. Good managers understand that we all do better when we all do better.
  • A clear vision and strategy.
  • Key technical skills. These aren’t important because your manager will be doing hands-on work, by the way. They are important because it allows the manager to advise the team that they’ve assembled for the job.

In addition to the revelations above, Google discovered a lot about the types of managers who make employees happy. The most important quality is a calm demeanor and an even keel. In a high-stress environment, someone who keeps things steady is key. They also discovered that the best leaders puzzled through problems with employees instead of just telling them what to do. 

By looking at the real data about good managers, Google was able to improve their hiring practices, improve worker satisfaction, and increase productivity. 

The biggest takeaway? Always challenge your assumptions. You may learn that what you thought was effective may be harming your company more than it helps. By taking an honest look at your analytics, you can seize startling revelations. Use them to make your company a better place and to rise above the competition.

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What Leadership Really Means in the Era of Working Remotely

What Leadership Really Means in the Era of Working Remotely

More employees are working remotely than ever before. According to research conducted by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, roughly 50% of the workforce in the United States holds a job that is “compatible” with at least partial telework. Of those people, about 20 to 25% of them actually do work remotely at some frequency.

More than that, a further 80 to 90% say that they would really like to work remotely at least part time – pointing to a trend that is only going to get more popular as time goes on.

Employees who are all able to work from home (or wherever they’d like, really) sounds fantastic… if you’re an employee. But what if you’re an employer? More than that, what if you’re a leader? How do you continue to do your job of bringing people together to benefit the greater good if they’re all spread out over a potentially massive geographic area? 

The Job Hasn’t Changed…

The “good news” is that the leadership qualities required to steer any organization towards success have not changed, nor are they likely to ever do so. You still need to be an excellent communicator, making sure that everyone is on the same page, that they know what “success” looks like, and that they all still feel like they’re contributing to something much more powerful and important than themselves.

You still need to be willing to lead by example, never asking someone to do something that you’re unwilling to do yourself. You still need to inspire people to give their all not because their paychecks depend on it, but because they just can’t help themselves. 

… But the Tools Have

Things have changed, however. In terms of communication, for example, you need to be willing to adapt your process to rely less on face-to-face interaction and more on the digital resources that you have available to you. Collaborating on a project no longer involves sitting in the same room and hammering out ideas. Now, it’ll involve using some cloud-based solution to give everyone editing access to the same files at the same time.

This type of thing will require an adjustment from your perspective, but it is one that is undoubtedly worth making. Typical telecommuters tend to be much happier with their jobs than people forced to come into the office every day, which will directly affect both productivity and work quality in a positive way. 73% of telecommuters say that they’re more satisfied with their company than they’ve ever been before. Most of them work more than 40 hours per week. They also tend to work harder to create a friendly, cooperative, and positive work environment – something that you’re also trying to do by being the best leader you can be. 

In truth, how you’re able to change your management style to keep up with the demands of the modern telecommuting workforce will go a long way towards deciding what type of leader you’ll be today, tomorrow, five years from now, and beyond. 

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How to Inspire Those Around You Like the True Leader You Were Meant to Be

How to Inspire Those Around You Like the True Leader You Were Meant to Be

Even business professionals with the best of intentions often make the mistake of assuming that solid leadership is about one thing and one thing only: delegating responsibility. You’ve worked hard your whole life and you’ve ascended through the ranks – now is the time when people should start listening to what you have to say, right?

Yes, but not in the way you think.

You’re the Inspiration

In truth, employees shouldn’t be doing what you say just because you’re the one saying it. They should be following your guidance because they want to, they’re inspired to, and if given the opportunity, they’d be steering that proverbial ship in the same direction that you’ve chosen. To get there, though, you’re going to have to do more than just bark orders. You’re going to have to inspire. Here are a few key things to keep in mind when trying to inspire others. 

Leaders Who Inspire Support Their Employees in More Ways Than One

One of the most common traits among leaders who inspire their workforce is that they tend to support their employees, both personally and professionally. After all, everyone wants to have meaning in their lives and wants to be encouraged to follow their passions.

To help support this, you need to create an environment where learning is encouraged and where everyone feels like you have your own personal interest in their success. You need to be a leader that fosters development – someone who looks for and utilizes every opportunity for a person to take a positive step forward. Doing this won’t just inspire pride in one’s work, it’ll go a long way towards inspiring loyalty, too.

Inspirational Leaders Set the Tone

Another essential trait that you’ll need to focus on to both inspire those around you and to become the true leader you were meant to be is to lead by example. This goes far beyond just “treat others how you want to be treated.” You need to show that you’re willing to do what you want others to do, too. Never ask someone to do something that you would never be willing to do yourself. Don’t be afraid to get in there and get your hands dirty, so to speak. If you want your team to put in long hours and work hard on that next big project, you have to put your money where your mouth is and show that you’re ready and willing to do the same.

Inspirational Leaders Value Trust Above All Else

A truly inspirational leader knows that human beings are exactly that – human. The road to success isn’t going to be an easy one and if you aren’t willing to trust the employees around you, they will soon recede into their comfort zone. They’ll quickly start to feel like the risk of stepping outside that box isn’t worth it and that the environment they’re spending so much time in just doesn’t support them in doing so anyway. 

By trusting your employees (and being willing to accept that not every challenge is a simple one to overcome), you’re creating a situation where people are more willing to take on challenges and risk any failures that come their way. You need to show people that even if something goes wrong, you believe in them and that you have their back. You need to make them believe that even when they have a setback, you’ll still be by their side, urging them to move forward. Rest assured, at that point, they will. 

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Why Patience is One of the Most Important Qualities a Leader Can Have

Why Patience is One of the Most Important Qualities a Leader Can Have

The chasm between a leader and a great leader is a deep one. It is one that is often filled with qualities like clarity, decisiveness, courage, passion, and a healthy amount of humility given the circumstances.

But one of the major qualities that is essential to leadership that people don’t talk about nearly enough is patience. When patience is practiced wisely, it can have a dramatic effect on your entire organization from the top down. 

The Ripple Effect of Patience

In general, patience is more important than just being willing to wait for results. Yes, all people are different and employees need to be given room to move at their own pace for the sake of quality. But, the true benefit of patience runs much deeper.

First and foremost, patience shows respect in a way that also encourages productivity at the same time. If you’re the type of leader who delegates responsibility but then spends hours each day telling people to “hurry up” or to “get things moving,” ultimately all you’re really doing is creating frustration or fear in an environment where you can afford neither.

Being willing to wait for someone to work at their own pace shows an employee that you value their overall contribution to the larger organization. You didn’t just choose any person for this job; you chose the right person for the right job. Sometimes, that takes a little more time than you’d like, but that is perfectly fine. Patience is also an important acknowledgment that every person progresses at a different pace. If you’re up in arms every time someone takes a little more time to complete a task, what you’re doing is communicating that they’re not as good as someone else when given the same responsibility. 

Patience Also Says a Lot About You, Too

Being patient with others isn’t just about your employees – it also speaks volumes about you. When you’re constantly working from a place of “I needed this yesterday,” all you’re doing is artificially inflating the stakes of the business you’re trying to run. You’re not making considerate decisions; you’re making ones fueled by little more than raw emotion and a ticking clock.

Patience shows that you’re the type of leader willing to stop and let things breathe for a moment. It shows that you’re willing to listen and consider all variables before making a thoughtful judgment about what to do next. It shows that you’re not the type of person to make snap decisions that you’ll later regret and that your employees shouldn’t be willing to settle for that, either. 

These are just a few of the many reasons why patience is one of the most important qualities a leader can have. It’s also important to remember that you need to be patient with yourself. Patience is a virtue, yes, but it’s also something of a discipline. You’ll need to acknowledge the importance of patience and the role it plays in your business so that you can grow into the type of leader who no longer has to make an effort to be patient with others. Instead, it will become an afterthought. 

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A Leadership Ethics Lesson Courtesy of a Leeson

A Leadership Ethics Lesson Courtesy of a Leeson

Although ethical behavior in business is often touted, it can be hard to attain in practice. That’s because ethical behavior has to be practiced by every individual, every day. It’s not the sort of thing that can be decided upon and implemented en masse. Leaders are often under particular pressure to be practical over ethical. The reasoning is often because hard decisions require frequent compromise, and ethics often come across as black-and-white perspectives that don’t match the reality facing a decision-maker.

A Virtue You Can’t Afford to Ignore

However, ignoring ethics can be a dangerous path. Nick Leeson provides a very vivid example of this. His name is well known in financial circles as the man who single-handedly put the Singapore financial markets into a panic and brought down one of Britain’s most famous banks.

Leeson got his start early in banking as a clerk in 1985. At first, Leeson seemed to be a success. However, he began quickly playing outside the rules, and because he was bringing in big profits, Barings Bank ignored the risks. 

By 1992, trades started going bad. Leeson packed the losses into a technical account originally designed as a dummy account for accounting errors. No one noticed, so he continued on his unethical path of hiding losses repeatedly. The tipping point came in January 1995 when Leeson placed a big trade between the Singapore and Japanese markets. Not expecting a major earthquake in Japan to throw both markets into a tailspin, Leeson realized the gig was up and went into hiding. Barings Bank folded a few weeks later owing £827 million in losses, and eventually, Leeson went to prison.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Interestingly, following good ethics not only avoids situations like Leeson’s, but it also works as a defense for a business leader. The adage, “actions speak louder than words” is true for ethics as well. Ethical behavior not only keeps employees behaving on the right side of the law, but it also gives managers and leaders incentive to work for more than just the bottom line. Ethics can incorporate greater goodwill for the community a business operates in, safety protection of employees and customers, market protection from unscrupulous players, and far better interaction with the government and regulators. All of which, in turn, help a company see a larger bottom line.

No question, the ethical path isn’t always the easiest. However, leaders of companies and organizations need to remember that good ethics involve more than just an individual perspective; by the very nature of their role, top managers affect all of the organization and set an example for staff to follow and the community to model after. Good ethics can be far more than just a set of rules; it can be a powerful marketing/communication tool positively setting a business apart in the market from competitors and creating the long-term foundation for customer retention.

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The Amazing Power of Peer Pressure in Groups

The Amazing Power of Peer Pressure in Groups

When Stanley’s daughter was about five and a half, it was time for her to pick out her first bike. No surprise, she wanted something with bold colors and controls. The typical child bicycle for girls was frequently some kind of flowery motif, a princess bike, or a fairy theme. However, when Stanley brought his daughter to the store, he made a point to tell her she could pick any bike in the store for her size. And she chose a bold, fire-engine red Transformers bike for her favorite TV robot heroes. Stanley wasn’t sure about the pick and asked her again if his daughter was sure. She looked around and within ten seconds was done; it would be the Transformers bike without question. So, that’s the bike she got.

A month later Stanley’s daughter went with her sister to the local park. They were back within minutes, and the younger one was crying. Stanley asked them what happened and, between sobs and hiccuping, his younger daughter blurted out she had been picked on for riding a boy’s bike. The culprit was other neighborhood kids, particularly girls. Stanley’s daughter rolled her Transformer’s bike into the garage, laid it down, and ran inside sobbing. That was the last time she ever rode that bike again. Stanley tried to see if she would ride it again a month later, but no luck. The bike ended up going to charity.

Every day at work people face decisions that they must then put in front of others, their peers. Like Stanley’s daughter, they will meet people who will criticize and oppose actions or directions chosen. Sometimes it’s for technical reasons and sometimes they do it just to be a pain. However, those peer pressure decisions can be immense depending where one is in their career. If starting out, and the opinion comes from more experienced peers, the pressure can have a huge effect on how people try to fit in, even causing anxiety in some folks. Everybody at some point wants to be accepted, and at work, it can be a fundamental requirement to gel with the “team.”

How one deals with peer pressure and compensates for it will dictate how capable of a decision-maker he or she can be. While it would be easy to assume things are top-down, dictatorial, in reality, our decision-making is often an interactive, communal function, so influence matters tremendously. Realizing this and learning how to control the pressure separates good decision-makers from those who can only operate in a vacuum. Controlling it versus being controlled means one rides their “bike” instead of losing it under pressure.

People are fundamentally social creatures, so those who want to be decision-makers need to understand how to use social influence to their advantage, not disadvantage. The last place a decision-maker wants to be is being second guessed or shamed in public when pushing a proposal. Part of effective leadership is knowing how to influence ahead of time and build decision support before the decision actually has to be made. Some call it being “political,” but realistically, effective leadership involves performance with a team, not against it.

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Taking Over: Tips for Becoming a Team Leader for an Already Established Group

Taking Over: Tips for Becoming a Team Leader for an Already Established Group

Building a team is an inherently personal proposition, regardless of the industry in which you’re operating. These are people that you’ve hand-selected based on their unique strengths to come together to form a complete whole. When everyone is firing on all cylinders, a well-designed team is more than just a tool – it’s a reflection of yourself, of the type of work you do, and of the quality of the product you’re about to deliver.

So what happens when you didn’t form the team, but you’re still being asked to lead them?

Things change in business all the time and at some point, you may be invited to take the reigns of a project that had already existed long before you got there – inheriting the project’s team at the same time. Jumping into a team as the newly deemed leader can be a difficult situation to find yourself in, but it doesn’t have to be provided you keep a few key things in mind.

Trust – The Most Important Element of All

When you take over as the team leader for an already established group, one thing will become clear: you probably wouldn’t have made the same decisions had you been there from the beginning. It’s a bit like a Hollywood feature film when one director takes over for another – a movie is still going to get made, but can that new director still put his or her own stamp on what is about to happen?

The answer is “yes,” provided you take advantage of your most valuable asset of all: the team itself. Remember, the people in that group were selected for a reason, and the most important thing you can do right now is to trust them to guide you just as they’re trusting you to guide them. Remember that they WERE there from the beginning. They have experience in this context that you do not, and their experience is incredibly valuable. Don’t come in barking orders, changing this or that just so that the project is more “yours” than anybody else’s. Listen to what they have to say. Talk to them about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Instead of changing them to fit your needs, do what you can to make yourself malleable to address theirs.

You’ve Been Tasked With Filling a Void, So Fill It

If you’re coming in to lead an already established group, the chances are high that what you’re being asked to do is fill a void. Why the previous team leader was replaced no longer matters – the people in front of you were prepared to follow that person, and now that person is gone. What you need to do is throw any pre-conceived strategies you may have had out the window and learn the score, so to speak. Find out what challenges were present under the previous leadership and learn what you can do to correct them. Find out how you can provide your personal value in a situation that already existed before you got there. Take the time to learn precisely what type of leader these people need and do whatever you have to do to become it. In this situation, you need to be willing to become a collaborator almost more than you would if you had built the team in the first place.

These are just a few of the ways that you can successfully become a team leader for an already established group. Make no mistake – it’s an awkward position to be in, but above all else, the quality of the work can’t suffer due to an unfortunate identity crisis. By trusting these people who have already come together and by being willing to become a real collaborator in every sense of the word, you’ll be able to make this team your own over time – all without tearing down what was old to build something new in the process.

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Know Your Limits: Why Boundaries Are So Important When Becoming a Team Leader

Know Your Limits: Why Boundaries Are So Important When Becoming a Team Leader

One of the key things that all successful team leaders find a way to overcome is the simple human need to be liked. When you’ve finally risen in the ranks and find yourself in a position of authority, it’s natural to want everyone to see you as “the cool boss” or “the friendly boss.” While this is absolutely recommended to a certain extent and it’s a whole lot better for productivity than barking orders and becoming the boss that everyone hates, you still need to know your limits. You need to draw a line in the sand and establish yourself as a team leader by setting boundaries for both yourself and those beneath you. This is something you can do in a few different ways.

The Dangers of Not Setting Boundaries

The potential pitfalls associated with not setting boundaries for your employees extend quite a bit deeper than just having people who look at you more as a friend and less as a leader. A lack of boundaries can also easily translate into a lack of clarity and direction. You might suddenly find that, while you have hugely talented people working beneath you, they’re not focused. They’re not engaged. They’re more confused than anything and nothing is getting done.

Another significant issue that a lack of boundaries can create has to do with your overall company culture. If you don’t set boundaries up front, your company culture could become damaged. People will become demotivated, which will ultimately cause their performance to suffer. This, in turn, not only affects the quality of the work that you’re able to deliver to clients, but also your entire company identity from the top down.

Setting Boundaries as a Team Leader

If you want to continue to blossom into the team leader you always know you were meant to be, you’ll want to focus on creating boundaries in a few key areas. You’ll want to create boundaries that help your employees focus, first and foremost. You need to do what you can to minimize distractions from EVERYTHING that isn’t critical to the task at hand.

You’ll also want to create boundaries that help build a positive working environment for everyone involved. Whether this means rewarding a job well done or just recognizing when someone turns in a particularly thoughtful piece of work, this will go a long way towards creating a positive emotional environment – which also helps stimulate brain performance and keeps your employees operating at peak efficiency.

More than anything, however, you’ll want to establish boundaries that keep your team functioning as exactly that – a team. Any activity or behavior that fragments your team instead of pulls them together simply won’t do. You need to always remind your employees that you’re all in this together and that every move you make, along with every move they make, needs to be focused towards the same short-term and long-term goals.

These are just a few of the many reasons why boundaries are such an important part of becoming a team leader. Everyone wants to be liked, but remember that you’re not in this to make friends – you’re in this to get the job done. The types of boundaries that you set need to minimize distractions and bring your team together, not pull them apart. Only then will you be able to grow into the true team leader you always knew you had hidden inside you.

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Mutual Respect: The Secret Ingredient When It Comes to Managing Employees

Mutual Respect: The Secret Ingredient When It Comes to Managing Employees

Many business leaders are still operating under the mistaken impression that the key ingredient to managing employees involves learning how to delegate responsibility. So long as you tell the right people to complete the right tasks, your business should pretty much run itself, right?

Wrong.

You can’t just demand that your employees dedicate a huge part of their waking days to helping you accomplish your own professional goals. They have to want it. You can’t buy it, either – high salaries and competitive benefits help, but they’ll only ultimately carry you so far.

So how do you make not only managing employees easier than ever, but also turn them into true, loyal team members instead of passive subordinates at the same time?

The answer is simple: mutual respect.

What is Mutual Respect?

The most important idea to understand about mutual respect is that you’re dealing with a two-way street. You can’t force someone to respect you just because you happen to be their boss or because your name is on the door. You have to earn it. You have to show them that you’re worthy of it.

However, generating mutual respect isn’t as easy as flipping a light switch. It involves a lot of small things that eventually add up to a pretty significant whole. It’s about being genuine in your interactions with employees. It’s about going out of your way to do the right thing and recognize a job well done. It’s about making sure that all employees, regardless of position, have an equal voice in all decisions that affect them. It’s about taking the time to show an employee that those eight hours they spend in the office on a Sunday didn’t go unnoticed. That they were appreciated. That you wouldn’t be where you are without them.

What Mutual Respect Means in the Long Run

If you’re able to foster an environment where mutual respect occurs organically, you’ll begin to feel a wide range of different benefits almost immediately. Mutual respect means that an employee is willing to put in a little extra effort and work harder because they know that you appreciate what they do and that you would be willing to do the same if the situation was reversed. Mutual respect means that if you do make a mistake, an employee is going to give you the benefit of the doubt because it’s the same courtesy you’ve afforded them in the past.

Mutual respect also means that all employees understand and even believe that they have an equal voice. They don’t feel like they work FOR you, they feel like they work WITH you – because you feel the exact same way. Even when a conflict does arise, it never gets heated or even contentious because people who respect each other don’t argue and fight over issues, they discuss them like civilized adults.

These are some of the many reasons why mutual respect is the secret ingredient when it comes to managing employees. Creating a workplace where mutual respect is encouraged creates a “trickle down” effect almost immediately – conflict management is easier, collaboration is more efficient, and even the types of personality or cultural differences that stood to divide employees in the past only work to bring them together.

Mutual respect allows everyone to come to the simple yet important realization that at the end of the day, you’re all part of the same team.

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The Power of Leadership: Bringing Out the Best From Introverted Employees

The Power of Leadership: Bringing Out the Best From Introverted Employees

As a business leader, one of the core requirements of your job is to make sure that you’re bringing out the absolute best in your team at all times. Every employee working under you not only needs to excel on their own terms but must also be contributing towards the larger whole at the same time. Having quiet, introverted employees can certainly make this difficult, but therein lies the challenge. If you want to use your leadership skills to bring out the best from your introverted employees, you’ll certainly want to keep a few key things in mind.

Work on Your Pace

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in terms of dealing with introverted employees is trying to force them to adapt to the way you like to work. Introverted employees typically don’t like fast-paced, high-stress situations. They need time to think, to plan, and to ultimately prepare for the task ahead. Part of the way you can help bring out the best in these employees involves embracing this idea wherever possible.

Say you’ve got a big meeting coming up and you know that an introverted employee will need to contribute as much as possible. Instead of springing this on them at the last minute, let them know as soon as possible. Give them time to get their thoughts straight and make sure you give them a clear, actionable agenda to work from. If you allow them to build up to the meeting, you’ll find that they’ll be much more engaged than you probably thought they would.

Acknowledge Accomplishments

One of the most important things to keep in mind about introverted employees is that they will rarely, if ever, take outward pride in their own accomplishments. They typically don’t like attention, even if it’s positive, which means that a lot of the hard work they’ve been doing will likely go unnoticed. As a result, it becomes your job to take pride in those accomplishments for them. If an introverted employee absolutely nails a project, make sure everyone on the team knows it. Make the announcement on their behalf, allowing them to feel great while embracing their personality at the same time. Just make sure you spread the love – all team member accomplishments should be acknowledged equally, both for introverts, extroverts, and everyone in between.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Another factor to consider about introverted employees ultimately comes down to communication. An introvert doesn’t necessarily like to keep in constant contact either in person or by phone, but luckily, technology has made it easier than ever to adapt to this idea. Utilize virtual communication for projects when possible, either via text messages to your team or instant messaging conversations, e-mail threads and more. This will allow your introverted employees to not only contribute to a larger project but to do so in an environment they feel the most comfortable in.

These are just a few of the ways you can bring out the best from your introverted employees all day, every day. Remember that just because someone is quiet and prefers to work in a solitary environment does NOT mean that they aren’t contributing. In the same way, a loud, boisterous attitude doesn’t make someone a good employee either. Your primary goal is to strike a balance. You need to provide ALL employees, regardless of their personality type, exactly what they need to thrive.

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About Acme Printing

Joe Printer, owner of Acme Printing

Acme Printing has a distinctly human approach to the printing business. We always figured that putting people before profits just made good commonsense.

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