Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss

The HR department’s long run on gut instincts may be coming to a close.

Recently, Google applied their engineering (data-driven) mindset to building better bosses and the counter-intuitive findings suggest that promoting the best technical person is a bad idea.

Not content to just learn what makes a good boss, Google is using this information to make bad bosses better: “We were able to have a statistically significant improvement in manager quality for 75 percent of our worst-performing managers.”

But Mr. Bock’s group found that technical expertise — the ability, say, to write computer code in your sleep — ranked dead last among Google’s big eight. What employees valued most were even-keeled bosses who made time for one-on-one meetings, who helped people puzzle through problems by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who took an interest in employees’ lives and careers.

“In the Google context, we’d always believed that to be a manager, particularly on the engineering side, you need to be as deep or deeper a technical expert than the people who work for you,” Mr. Bock says. “It turns out that that’s absolutely the least important thing. It’s important, but pales in comparison. Much more important is just making that connection and being accessible.”

They’ve even published a list of cognitive biases 

Continue Reading