We're always in search of how to improve management and leadership. What makes a good manager? How do you turn a good manager into a great one?
You can read and endless list of articles about the topic of improvement management style. I've linked to many of them.
Google had the same question, and launched "Project Oxygen" to figure it out within their organization. The initial results were not surprising. But Oxygen then ranked the factors by importance, and came to a startling (for Google) discovery - technology skills became less important as you moved into management. Here is Google's list:
- Be a good coach.
- Empower your team and don't micromanage.
- Express interest in team members' success and personal well-being.
- Don't be a sissy; be productive and results-oriented.
- Be a good communicator and listen to your team.
- Help your employees with career development.
- Have a clear vision and strategy for the team.
- Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team.
As described by the New York Times in Google's 8-point plan to help managers improve, this was a wake-up call for Google to change its attitude toward technical managers:
For much of its 13-year history, particularly the early years, Google has taken a pretty simple approach to management: Leave people alone. Let the engineers do their stuff. If they become stuck, they'll ask their bosses, whose deep technical expertise propelled them into management in the first place.
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.
I've talked about this before. I even gave a guest presentation at Penguicon 2009 [PPT] that discussed, among other things, what motivates leaders in technology: As IT managers move up the ladder, the relative importance of technology skills becomes much less important, replaced by strategic thinking and interpersonal skills. An important part of that is delegation.
How does this match up to your IT management style? Do you put more effort in coaching your staff, in developing them professionally? Or do you focus on keeping your technology skills up to date?