How to build better bosses for better business

Boris Joaquin

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How to build better bosses for better business
It's said that 'people join companies, but leave managers' – so how do you make sure managers improve and people stay?


Everywhere in the world, every company or organization is making an effort to mobilize people in order to succeed. Whether you are a not-for-profit, a government agency, or a commercial company, you are constantly striving to maximize employee contribution to achieve your intended mission and drive extraordinary results.

Of course, there are external challenges that every organization constantly battles, but the most frustrating and costly challenges are mainly internal. There’s a people dimension in every business problem: issues related to turnover, disengaged employees, poor leadership, burnout, employee conflict, ethics violations, and employee theft.

The principal challenge, therefore, that any organization will hurdle is how to hire, develop, engage and retain the right people.

In Good to Great, author Jim Collins wrote about getting the “right people on the bus.” Once you find the right people, you have to find the best way to keep them and eventually put them in the right leadership seats. Have you considered how much having the “wrong” people costs your organization – especially if they are your managers?

It is said, “People join companies, but leave managers.” When new hires join a company, it is often because of what they believe the company represents. Yet a significant number of exit interviews reveal that people leave an organization because of their managers.

In a survey cited in The Real Productivity-Killer: Jerks by Maeghan Ouimet (2012), 65% of the respondents said that they would take a new boss over a pay raise. Yet when managers were asked why their people left, the number one answer given was “for more money.” This discrepancy shows a significant disconnect between those in management and the people that they lead.

The impact that those in managerial roles have upon the performance of the organization should not be underestimated. That is why in this column, we intend to share best practices for managers to become effective leaders of people in the workplace and thereby increase their employee engagement, contribution and productivity.

In an effort by Google to answer the same question – an initiative called “Project Oxygen” – they noted that the best managers had teams that performed better and had higher employee retention. So, if they could replicate the behaviors of the highest performing managers and make everyone as good as their top performers, it would have a significant impact on company performance and the bottom line. 

They then began to explore what made their best managers so good and whether these attributes could be replicated. Statisticians gathered and analyzed more than 10,000 observations about managers across more than 100 variables from years of performance reviews, employee surveys, and HR interview notes. They then coded all the information to identify patterns.

What they discovered were several key attributes of their most effective managers (Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss, Adam Byrant, 2011). You may find these helpful as well.

Here are the eight habits of highly effective Google managers:

  1. Be a good coach.
  2. Empower your team, and do not micromanage.
  3. Express interest in team members’ personal success and well-being.
  4. Be productive and results-oriented.
  5. Communicate and listen to your team.
  6. Help your employees with career development.
  7. Express a clear vision and strategy for the team.
  8. Demonstrate key technical skills so you can help advise the team.

What is most encouraging from this study, and the findings of hundreds of similar ones, is that those critical skills required of effective managers can all be developed.

Skills such as being a good coach, expressing interest in your staff, being results-oriented, teaching, communicating, listening, and helping employees, all require and draw upon the foundational personal and organizational leadership every company should invest in to develop in their people.

According to Google, their investment paid off quickly once they started teaching their “Eight Habits” in training programs, as well as in coaching and performance review sessions. As a result of their efforts, they were able to achieve a statistically significant improvement in manager quality for 75% of their lowest-performing managers.

While developing leadership capabilities receives some level of attention in most multinational companies, often the ‘soft skills’ (i.e. leadership, managing people) take a backseat to what are considered by some local corporations to be the more important “hard skills” like finance, strategy, and engineering.

But managers who learn personal leadership – to self-govern, to grow in self-awareness and self-discipline – are incredibly effective in leading other employees. As they develop healthy habits both personal and organizational, they develop a genuine interest in leading and helping others grow as well, multiplying their impact throughout their sphere of influence within the organization, and ultimately contributing to its overall success. –


Boris Joaquin is a corporate trainer, executive coach and consultant. He is the founder of Project Purpose Philippines, co-founder of Breakthrough Leadership Management Consultancy which carries Salt and Light Ventures, and is an Investors in People specialist. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @borisjoaquin.

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