The 2 manager habits that matter most for retaining employees

A decade ago, researchers at Google set out to answer the question: What makes a manager great?

In their initial study, researchers identified eight common habits of high performing leaders, which they incorporated into manager training, write Melissa Harrell and Lauren Barbato for Google's re:Work blog.

But as the tech firm grew in size and complexity, the demands on its leaders changed as well.

To refresh their perspective on manager effectiveness, researchers analyzed a recent engagement survey and found that employees want to see their leaders take two new actions: 1) collaborate across the organization and 2) practice strong decision-making.

Related: How to deal with an indecisive manager

After investigating the newly identified habits' effect on team outcomes, researchers found that managers who rated well on collaboration and decision-making were more likely to have higher retention rates, happier employees, and stronger team performance.

Researchers also found that the two new behaviors correlated more strongly with those positive employee outcomes than their original list. Managers who received higher scores on collaboration and decision-making from their employees tended to see fewer employees quit within the next year, received higher scores on satisfaction surveys, and enjoyed better performance from their teams. Google also found evidence that good collaboration and decision-making actually cause good employee outcomes, rather than merely correlating with them.

Here are Google's updated list of 10 habits of successful managers:

1. Is a good coach
2. Empowers team
3. Creates an inclusive team environment, shows concern for well-being and success
4. Is productive and results-oriented
5. Is a good communicator
6. Supports career development
7. Has clear strategy for the team
8. Has key technical skills to advise the team
9. Collaborates across the firm
10. Is a strong decision maker

The updated list of 10 habits is now more predictive of manager effectiveness and team outcomes, write Harrell and Barbato.

Google's findings mirror similar advice from other industry experts.

Leaders often forget that an essential part of effective communication is a balance between being decisive and listening to others, Amy Jen Su wrote for the Harvard Business Review in 2017.

To develop this skill, leaders should choose what stance to take before an important meeting or discussion and prepare to defend the choice, recommends Jen Su, co-founder of Paravis Partners, an executive coaching firm. Then, at the meeting, she recommends taking time to understand other perspectives, asking questions, and providing feedback (Harrell/Barbato, re:Work, 3/20).

To retain top talent, managers still matter


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