By Ellie Hearne

What's the one thing everyone who seeks out coaching has in common? They want to get better.

One of the great privileges of being a leadership coach is getting to work with and learn from some of the smartest and most-driven people working today. In the process, you learn from each other, you form a partnership, and, as is the case with any good working relationship, both parties walk away from each interaction smarter.

In the years I spent coaching at Google, I was able to see up close how a large organization balanced its dedication to data with its dedication to its people.

In management terms, this made for an interesting experiment. For example, the data might tell you to closely monitor what your people do to ensure accountability - but human beings will tell you that that misguided approach breeds distrust and disloyalty, and that accountability is less tangible than data might suggest.

While far from perfect, managers at Google and companies like it strive to be better - and most of them work at it over the course of their careers. I know, because I've had the privilege of coaching a number of them.

Google being Google, the company opted to leave little to chance, activating Project Oxygen to zero in the qualities that maketh the leader. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review broke down that exercise - in which they used data from employee surveys and performance reviews to summarize the qualities of great managers.

Their findings? I'm glad you asked:

A great manager:

1. Is a good coach
2. Empowers the team and does not micromanage
3. Expresses interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being
4. Is productive and results-oriented
5. Is a good communicator—listens and shares information
6. Helps with career development
7. Has a clear vision and strategy for the team
8. Has key technical skills that help him or her advise the team

 

Few people walk into leadership roles fully qualified to do everything the job demands of them. And, unfortunately for the engineers out there, none of these traits is mastered or embodied by flipping a switch. But you don't have to be a manager at Google to work toward and ultimately master the skills it takes to truly lead.

Much of leadership and leadership coaching is about building and honing these skills and qualities over time - and workshopping them when human nature intervenes (i.e., all the time). 

Zero in on your weak spots. If you're unsure of where to begin, ask colleagues for direct feedback. A quick-start approach would be to then prioritize the above "Google list" and try one skill or competency at a time.

Alternatively, talk to an experienced coach about how you can embrace your strengths and tackle your "opportunity areas" (aka, weaknesses).

The best leaders are already doing it.

 

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Ellie Hearne is an experienced leadership coach. She has worked one-on-one with leaders at Apple, Google, Starbucks, and Marriott — as well as numerous start-ups. She has nothing left to learn (...).