7 Good Habits That Productive Managers Share

Nobody would deny that Google gets things done. It’s an incredibly prolific company, thanks to its combination of bleeding-edge innovation and some of the most talented people in the tech field. And, you might assume, managers who excel at motivating, guiding, and supporting their staff members.

A few years ago, Google applied its own tools in a quest to identify the most successful management traits from among its own ranks, using its own voluminous data. Code-named Project Oxygen, the effort resulted in eight specific behaviors that great managers shared.

These eight weren’t particularly surprising. They included things like “Be a good coach,” “Be a good communicator,” “Have a vision,” and “Be productive and results-oriented.”

“Be productive” sounds like a good plan, but how do you accomplish it? Here are some suggestions.

Designate a block of time to take care of miscellaneous administrative tasks. Do you drop everything to answer non-essential emails or approve expense reports or complete business forms that do not need immediate attention? You lose your focus on the task at hand when you do that, and it takes some time to get back into it. Try to save up all of those chores and get them done in a specified 30-minute slot. If your department or company shares calendars, block that out as unavailable unless the building is burning down. You’ll be surprised how much time this can give back to you.

Really listen to what people are saying. Some call this empathetic listening. If you only have one ear open so you get just half of the message before you respond, you’ll have to deal with the same issue again at another time. Employees can tell when you’re not hearing them, which can drag their productivity down. Which, of course, affects yours.

Trust your employees and don’t micromanage. What do you think when you walk past an open office door and see someone staring out the window or doodling on a notepad or throwing nerf basketballs into a basket? Do you assume they’re goofing off? Some managers ask their employees to spend some time every day (not a lot of time, of course) doing nothing but letting their minds wander. Sometimes, solutions come out of these down periods. At the very least, your employees get a breather, and often return to their tasks refreshed.

Choose technology wisely.

  • If it’s feasible, get your employees in on the decision-making process. You’ll decide in the end, but they’re the ones who will be pounding on those applications every day.
  • Don’t be taken in by impressive functionality that you’ll never use, but do look for solutions that are scalable, leaving some room for potential growth.
  • If you can, get the names of businesses similar to yours that are using one of your candidates and talk to them.
  • Bring your IT department or specialist into the discussion.
  • Scrutinize the usability factor carefully, especially with complex applications like accounting, project management, and CRM.

Give employees credit when they accomplish something. Managers who make their employees slave over a project and come in at the last minute to take credit exist outside of the movies. This is one of the worst things a manager can do. Why would the staff give it their all when their contributions aren’t acknowledged?

Treat employees equally. “Teacher’s pet” was a bad idea in grade school, and it’s a terrible idea in business management. Granted, you will mesh better with some employees than others. There’ll be a temptation to interact more with the smartest, most creative individuals. But playing favorites has the potential to punch holes in everyone’s productivity, for different reasons. Mentor the ones who need it the most, and save some of your most glowing praise for performance reviews. You want to be seen as someone who sees everyone and parcels out your attention as equally as possible.

Know when to fold ’em. If you’ve given some staff members a more-than-fair shake but they’re simply not suited to their job (or just aren’t putting out the required effort), help them understand when it’s time to move on. If the employee is OK with it, have a couple of one-on-one sessions where you help them explore their strengths and weaknesses, and offer whatever forward-looking suggestions that you can. (This, incidentally, was one of Google’s eight great manager traits: “Express interest and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being.”)

You can take time-management classes. Obsess over your to-do list. Set your alarm for a half-hour early to plan your day. None of which are bad ideas. But your attitude toward your employees and your treatment of them have the most impact on your productivity – and theirs.


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