Finding the Best Managers

satscoresConventional wisdom says we find those “A Team” players coming out of the top colleges and universities, with the best grades and test scores. Maybe not in every job, mind you, but certainly many, and definitely at a technology company like Google, right?


One thing I love about Google is the strategic and cultural clarity they have around the importance of data. Many claim to be “data driven,” but Google walks the talk. They studied what made a good manager at Google, and it wasn’t attendance at Stanford or a 4.0 GPA. It was actually something much more boring: predictability. Looking at the data, they discovered:

When managers are predictable, they eliminate an obstacle from employees’ progress–themselves. Managers have their own tendency to interfere, dictate, second-guess, and be a backseat driver. Without this obstacle, employees don’t have to worry about whether their manager will try to jump in or suddenly veer in a different direction. Instead, they have the mental space to do great work…. [I]f a leader is consistent, people on their teams experience tremendous freedom.

And here’s the kicker: because they had the data, they actually started running things in a way that was CONTRARY to what the Google founders wanted. Page and Brin liked evaluating people based on SAT scores and GPAs. It made sense to them. But they couldn’t argue with the data, so they agreed to do things a different way.

This is the power of not only data (which is consistently ignored in many parts of the HR world), but also clarity. Clarity about what drives success (in Google’s case, disciplined use of data) allows leaders–at all levels–to step away from their egos and do what’s right for the system.