People typically leave a company for one of three reasons, or a combination of them. The number one reason is that they have an unpleasant, to put it mildly, boss.  The second one is that they don’t feel a connection to the mission of the company, or sense that their work matters. The third reason is that they don’t really like or respect their co-workers.

Those are the findings of many surveys, including the one conducted by Google.  Google, which has been called the #1 company to work for, until very recently, had a surprisingly difficult time holding on to employees. The company, where performance reviews are done quarterly, rather than annually, saw huge swings in the ratings that employees gave to their bosses. So, among its many innovations, Google made time for an internal project: Project Oxygen. After scouring years of performance reviews, feedback surveys and more, Project Oxygen identified eight characteristics employees at the Googleplex admire most in bosses.

The results are not groundbreaking and match what we knew before about  what motivates employees to higher performance and higher satisfaction, and what does not. The project also confirmed that managers had a much greater impact on employees’ performance and how they felt about their job than any other factor.

So, what are the top traits of managers, as rated by their employees?

1. Be a good coach: provide specific feedback and have regular one-on-one meetings with employees. (So many of us are often shocked by a negative annual review that comes out of blue – a sign of ineffective management.)

2. Empower your team and don’t micromanage: give employees space to tackle problems themselves, but be available to offer advice.

3. Express interest in your team members’ success and well-being. Make new members feel welcome and get to know your employees as people.

4. Be a good communicator and listen to your team: Learn to listen as well as share information.Encourage open dialogue and pay attention to the concerns of the team.

5. Help employees with career development: they want to feel like their efforts will be noticed and that their hard work is furthering their careers. Managers should make it known that they appreciate employees, want to help them, and that the work employees do for them will pay off.

6. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team: in addition to leading the team, keep everyone involved in developing and working towards the team’s vision.

7. Have technical skills so you can help your team: understand the challenges related to each project and be able to help your team members to solve problems.

8. Be productive and results-oriented: focus on helping the team achieve its goals by prioritizing work and removing obstacles.

Project Oxygen’s results were announced almost two years ago. Since then, Google has taken concrete steps to improve its management practices. Now the company regularly surveys employees about their managers, and then use that information to publicly recognize the best managers and enlist them as teachers and role models for the next year. The worst managers receive intense coaching and support, which helps 75 percent of them get better within 2-3 months in average.

The end result: much higher engagement levels and more effective management of innovation and innovators.

What is your take-away from the list of traits above – as a manager or employee?

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