Organizational leaders often manage people based on the premise that employees need to be controlled because they cannot be trusted. The organization is doomed to create bureaucratic hierarchies in which managers micromanage. This creates a culture in which people are always striving to follow rules based on prescribed performance goals. Experimentation, creativity and innovation have no room for expression. Hiring good leaders is one thing, but to learn how to change your company to develop them, read the book Developing Leaders: Why Traditional Leadership Training Misses the Mark.
One of the important insights of WORK RULES! is that organizations must find balance between control and freedom. Google has been extremely successful at achieving balance, so the author decided to share what he experienced. Managers, of course, are at the heart of the kind of culture an organization develops. If employees are to feel they have the freedom to express their creativity and do the best work possible, they need managers who avoid bureaucracy and controlling behaviors. Disney aligns with this positioning as well, as written about in the book Creativity Inc.
Bock describes eight attributes that managers need to be skilled and for a company striving for continuous innovation to thrive. They include being a good coach to employees, empowering teams, being results oriented, using good communication skills, conveying a clear vision and strategy and more. These are also things mentioned in the legendary book High Output Management.
It is interesting to note that this book was written in 2015, and the eight attributes are now frequently touted by major consulting firms as critical to organizational success in talent recruitment, hiring and retention; producing continuous innovation; and achieving resilience and adaptability. As would be expected in a giant technology company, data plays a big role in assessing job candidates and tracking employee development and performance. For more on employee retention and engagement at work read the book DRIVE.
Google uses a combination of behavioral and situational interviews to assess job candidates. The four attributes that best predict success as a Google employee are general cognitive ability, emergent leadership, “Googleyness” and role-related knowledge. Googleyness refers to people who will thrive in a workplace where they must work in ambiguity and incorporate regular feedback. Bock lists these as enjoying fun, intellectual humility, conscientiousness, comfort with ambiguity, courage, and being interesting. To learn more about how fortune 500 companies find the right people read the book WHO.
Once hired, managers get a checklist that helps them onboard the new hire with an eye on helping the person achieve effectiveness as quickly as possible. Without a doubt hiring is the most important activity to any company. Bait & Switch can also provide some insight and perspective on the hiring process.
Developing the right manager behaviors and hiring the right people are two elements crucial to developing and maintaining an innovative and agile organization. The third piece is team performance. How do managers motivate, encourage and inspire team members? Bock describes ten transforming steps, but you can also read the book Team of Teams after this one for more thoughts.
What is surprising about Bock’s steps is that most of them are applicable to every organization – small to mega-size. For example, one is helping people recognize the meaning of the work to make the world a better place. Also on the list is trusting people, nudging people to encourage desired behaviors and developing people rather than managing performance. A couple other wonderful books on this are Wooden On Leadership and The Trillion Dollar Coach.
The other surprise is that some of the suggestions seem to go against everything management schools have taught for decades. For example, one team transformation step says to “pay unfairly.” What it is saying is to make sure the 10 percent creating the most value feel most valued by paying them more. It does not have to be a lot of money. It just needs to be enough to serve as recognition of the value they contribute.
Another unexpected suggestion is to “hire only people who are better than you.” Do this by hiring by committee, setting objective standards in advance and never compromising. This is something Jack Ma is a master at. You can read more about it in the book Alibaba: The house the Jack Ma Built.
Google was really ahead of its time in creating the kind of work culture that is ideal for a dynamic, global work environment driven by ever-advancing technology. Google employees can set their own work schedules, with some working part of the day in the office and the rest of the hours worked in the evening at home. Creating Magic would give more useful ideas for your place of business.
The regularly sought out two-way feedback drives continuous improvement; a variety of perks are offered from food to money; and an allotted percentage of time employees are allowed to explore projects of interest that are still related to Google’s work.
WORK RULES! offers insights that are applicable today and will remain applicable into the future. The reason for the timelessness of the insights is that they are driven by a desire to give people opportunities to excel. For decades, the conventional management style was command-and-control. If this specific topic is interesting you simply must read Leading.
In an age of technology where people can connect, gain knowledge and pursue ideas, the conventional management style leads to high turnover, low creativity and an inability to attract top talent. When employees excel, the company excels. Google is proof.