Soft Skills Supported by Hard Science from Google
For more than a decade at RampUp Solutions and for the last five years at MAPping Company Success I've coached and written about what managers need to do to motivate and engage their teams and what employees really want from their managers. Others have been saying similar stuff for far longer.
We've been telling them what is most important to employees, i.e., clear communications on everything, including where the team is going and why, support and opportunities to grow, etc.
Nothing you haven't heard before, but mostly anecdotal—no hard science to support it, so we end up preaching to the choir, not converting the non-believers.
Google employees deal in facts and stats, stuff that can be munched, crunched and analyzed, and have little use for anything else.
So it's logical that when Google decided it needed to improve its management skills it turned to analytics to provide the answers.
"So, as only a data-mining giant like Google can do, it began analyzing performance reviews, feedback surveys and nominations for top-manager awards. They correlated phrases, words, praise and complaints."
And guess what?
The data supported the same results that those of us without data have been saying for years.
But Google took it a step further and prioritized the list based on hard numbers.
And of eight core employee preferences do you know what came in dead last?
Technical skill and technical skill had been Google's main criteria for promotion.
This finally brings us to my main point, which, this time, is supported by statistical research.
"Technical skill" covers far more ground than most people think. It refers to any hard science (math, engineering, chemistry, etc.), but also to soft sciences (psychology, social science, etc.), sales, finance, the arts—just about anything in which humans develop expertise.
The lesson here is that technical superiority does not predict success in a management/leadership role.
Managerial success is based on a person's ability to connect in a meaningful way to those she manages and to provide what each one needs to produce and grow.
Not new information, but now that it's backed by hard science and Google as the role model the choir just got a whole lot larger.