Work Rules!

"This book is the story of how we [Google] think about our people, what we’ve learned over the past fifteen years, and what you can do to put people first and transform how you live and lead."

- Work Rules!, page 6

What comes to mind when you think of working for Google? The free food, the onsite grocery delivery, dry cleaning, massage, nap pods, salons, car wash service, concierge, the Google bus that drives you to work? Or maybe you think of the fact that Google is twenty-five times more selective than Harvard? Or the fact that the Great Places to Work Institute has named Google the best place to work over thirty times?

Tens of thousands of people visit Google campuses yearly to discover the secrets to why “Googlers” are so happy. If you think it would be awesome to sit down with one of their senior execs and pick his/her brain, then you’re going to love this book.

In Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead, Laszlo Bock, their head of People Operations shares the keys to their success including the Insights I discuss below; ten work rules they follow, eight common attributes shared by their highest-scoring managers and five must-do actions with each new hire. Most of his ideas cost little or nothing. He asserts that any company can be built around the principles that Google has used.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Ten steps to transform your team

"We don’t have all the answers, but we have made some fascinating discoveries about how best to find, grow and keep people in an environment of freedom, creativity, and play."
- Work Rules!, page 15

Bock’s foundational belief upon which his ten work rules are built comes down to this: you either believe people are good or you don’t. And if you believe people are good, you will agree that they should be free. Often, work is far less meaningful and enjoyable than it could be because leaders don’t believe that their people are good. They build immense bureaucracies to control people because they don’t trust them.

Bock, in contrast, in his search for the most talented people on the planet, assumes that they will want to be a part of a freedom-driven company. And such companies, because they benefit from the best insight and passion of all their employees, are more resilient and better able to sustain success. Treating your employees well is both a means to an end and an end in itself. In doing good, you do well!

Here are the ten steps that will transform your team:

  1. Give your work meaning: Help your people see how their work contributes to making the world a better place.
  2. Trust your people: Be transparent and give them a voice.
  3. Hire only people who are better than you: Hire by committee, set objectives standards in advance, never compromise.
  4. Don’t confuse development with managing performance: Make development conversations safe and productive by having them all the time. Have an attitude of “How can I help you be more successful?”
  5. Focus on the two tails: Put your best people under the microscope to learn from them. Help worst performers learn – or move to a new role or exit them with compassion immediately.
  6. Be frugal and generous: Most of the perks cost nothing (e.g. Bringing services in house). Save the big bucks for things your people most need (e.g. Moments of greatest tragedy – deaths or joy – births).
  7. Pay unfairly: 90% of the value of your team comes from the top 10%. Make sure the best feel valued (even if you don’t have the finances to provide a huge difference).
  8. Nudge: Create environments to encourage the behaviors you want.
  9. Manage the rising expectation: Create supporters rather than critics by telling people you are experimenting with new ideas.
  10. Enjoy! And then go back to No. 1 and start again: Building a great culture is not a one-time event. It requires constant learning and renewal.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

What do the best managers do?

"Take power from your managers and trust your people to run things."
- Work Rules!, page 118

At Google, they want their people to feel, think and act like owners rather than employees. One strategy to achieve this is to remove as much power from managers as they can. The team creates greater innovation with less formal authority.

So what do their managers do? What’s the difference between the best managers and the rest? Google identified eight attributes shared by high-scoring managers (not seen in the low-scoring ones). To make the attributes actionable, they created a checklist and promise that if you perform every behavior on the list, you’ll be an amazing manager.

  1. Be a good coach and give actionable feedback that helps improve performance.
  2. Empower the team and do not micromanage.
  3. Show consideration and express interest for team members’ success and personal well-being.
  4. Be very productive/results-oriented – keep the team focused on priorities.
  5. Be a good communicator. Listen and regularly share information from senior leadership.
  6. Help the team with career development. Have meaningful discussions about career development every six months.
  7. Have a clear vision/strategy for the team and communicate clear goals to the team.
  8. Have important technical skills that help advise the team.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Faster onboarding

"Hiring is the single most important people activity in any organization"
- Work Rules!, page 54

Hiring is an expensive and risky process. At Google they front-load their people investment by spending the majority of their time and money attracting, assessing and cultivating new hires.

Just one of the Insights he shares after discussing how to hire, what to ask, what process to follow, is what to do with a new hire. Google created a checklist for managers with five things to do with ‘Nooglers’ (new hires).

An email is sent to the manager the Sunday before the new hire starts. In the email are five actions that are almost embarrassing in their simplicity:

  1. Have a role-and-responsibilities discussion.
  2. Match your Noogler with a peer buddy.
  3. Help your Noogler build a social network.
  4. Set up onboarding check-ins once a month for their first six months.
  5. Encourage open dialogue.

The managers who acted on this email were rewarded with new hires who became fully effective 25 percent faster than others, saving a full month of learning time. Bock admits he was shocked at how profound the result was. Do you remember Atul Gawande’s TED talk advocating the increased use of checklists in medicine? Bock says, “It turns out checklist really do work, even when the list is almost patronizingly simple”.

He cautions however that sending a checklist isn’t enough. It needs to be meaningful, sent at the right time and easy to act on. And it needs to have a reminder. Two weeks after that checklist, managers received a follow-up email reminding them of the five actions.

Bock feels the most important idea he can impart is the importance of thinking like an owner. As such, what would you do to transform your workplace, one little idea at a time?

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Jill Donahue

ABOUT Jill Donahue

Everything I do is focused on improving patient outcomes. I do that by being a student and teacher of ethical, effective influence. I teach pharma people and health care professionals how to improve their ability to influence others...
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