Google’s Study of Effective Managers

Starting in 2008, Google’s statisticians began “Project Oxygen”.* The plan was to statistically analyze years of performance reviews to identify which behaviors were associated with the best performing managers. The methodology also allowed them to rank-order the behaviors. Here they are, from top to bottom:

  1. Be a good coach. Provide specific, constructive feedback.
  2. Empower your team and don’t micromanage.
  3. Express interest in team member success and personal well being.
  4. Be productive and results-oriented.
  5. Be a good communicator and listener.
  6. Help your employees with career development.
  7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team.
  8. Have key technical skills and use them to help your team.

Of course, this was done only with Google managers and there is no evidence that the findings transfer to other organizations. And yet, none of this is surprising. You’d learn pretty much the same things in any MBA program’s course on leadership. Still, it’s interesting that even in a super-creative, high-technology company, the same principles of leadership seem to hold true.

*Adam Bryant, “The quest to build a better boss”, New York Times, March 13 2011, pp. BU1, BU7.

2 thoughts on “Google’s Study of Effective Managers

  1. Hello Prof. Sawyer,
    Perhaps we met at the Amer. Creativity Association conference in Austin a few years back? I’m a retired psychiatrist and psychodramatist who is interested in improvisation and creativity. I edited a book about applied improv — table of contents at
    I’d like to correspond with you. I suspect we have several things in common, after browsing your website a bit.

    1. I looked at your web site and I recognize you. But I wasn’t in Austin. I gave a keynote at the Applied Improvisation conference a few years ago, maybe there?

      I’ve written a book about my three-year study of Chicago improvisational theater, it’s a bit technical and academic but you might enjoy it, it’s called Improvised Dialogues: Emergence and Creativity in Conversation. I’ll mail you a copy if you like, email details to me (email address can be found on my web site

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