Leadership Blog

Leaders Can Learn from Google’s Culture

Whether it be encouraging employees to bump into each other or to think big, there is something special about the Google culture.  Google makes the point that it’s their people who make them what they are.   Maybe so, but aren’t there people in all organisations.  There is something in their culture that makes them different.

In a recent article, Google’s Manuel Schaeffer, who doesn’t claim to be an expert on organisational change or innovation tactics, has shared his top five tips for creating a great workplace environment based on his experience at Google.    

One: Let your employees figure it out

It is important to empower staff to work on the problems they care most about. As a leader, give broad guidelines and directions, but give people the creative freedom to figure things out.

If you want to foster innovation, your employees need to be able to experiment, fail, iterate and try once again. To start changing your organisational culture, think about:

  • How are decisions being made?
  • What behaviour is being rewarded?
  • How do you structure and organise meetings?

All of these together will eventually determine the creative potential of your organisation.

Two: People with good ideas should be allowed to break through

An innovative organisation needs to ensure that decision-making processes are based on good ideas that are backed up by sound information.  So, if a manager or employee encounters internal barriers to change, they should be listened to and allowed to start shaking things up.

Three: Think 10x

At Google, 10x stands for doing things ten times better instead of focusing on incremental change. This approach helped them improve their technology and deliver great products for their users.

It is an important mental tool that gives employees permission to think big and not be afraid to come up with new solutions.  To do this, try to encourage a yes culture where new ideas are not immediately shut down because of risk –  encourage and nuture ideas.

Four: Hire smart, modern people

Innovation starts and ends with the people you recruit.  Ideally, you want to hire someone who has diverse experiences, is digitally savvy, ready to experiment and passionate about your cause – whatever their age.  It won’t be easy but you can find people who care about the same things as your organization and can share your values.  Values matter a lot.  So too does future thinking, especially around the potential of technology to offer up new solutions.

Five: Build a creative environment

When it comes to creativity and innovation, one important parameter you can directly shape is your work environment.  Google has created a notoriously quirky environment. For instance, offices are designed in a way that help people bump into each other and spaces don’t look alike so people actually start exploring the areas. So it’s less about decoration and more about creating open spaces where everyone - managers and employees, can sit together which helps to exchange ideas more frequently.


Mission with a Difference

How would you like to lead with a mission, “to be the wuxia master who saves the kingdom.”  This follows a new trend of leaders pausing to identify a personal and unique purpose statement for themselves.  The “wuxia” statement reflects one CEO’s love of Chinese kung fu movies and the wise, skillful warriors they portray.  By the way, he is president and CEO of Heineken, USA – no minor player.

This story comes on the back of an article by Nick Craig and Scott Snock in the Harvard Business Review (May 2014).  The authors have been looking at the trend towards purposeful and goal oriented leadership and in their teaching they are taking it down, deep and personal.  They are champions of authentic leadership and this requires an inner motivation to survive turbulence.

As Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Organisations, in all sectors, face unprecedented challenges, lightening change, and a constant alertness to disruption.  In these circumstances leaders have to rely on a steely and confident ability to steer through constantly stormy waters.  It requires intellect for sure, but it is as much about character and attitude.

Mission statements are still important for organisations to convey their overarching purpose to stakeholders and employees: we like Google’s, “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible” or Manchester United’s, “to be the best football club in the world, both on and off the pitch”.

This personal purpose approach, promoted by Craig and Snock is to help leaders find their statement of purpose and bring it into play in making them more effective in their role.  It is a wake up call in removing barriers to growth and a psychological weapon to use in gaining the courage to pursue ambitious goals.

There are some good examples of personal, leadership purpose statements.  One we liked was stated as, “Compelled to make things better, whomever, wherever, however… ”.  Another is, “Bring water and power to the 2 billion people who do not have it.”  Now that would get you out of bed.

The article points out that, “leadership purpose is who you are and what makes you distinctive.”  It is not what you do, it’s how you do it and why.  Their advice is to ask someone close to you what they recognise in you that makes you uniquely you. 

In drafting a personal purpose statement try this:

  • Reflect on your life story from childhood through education to work: when where you at your happiest and best?
  • Ask trusted friends, colleagues or family to act as mirrors for you
  • Envision the impact you will have in your world as a result of pursuing your purpose
  • Write a clear statement starting with:” My leadership purpose is…”
  • Use language that matters to you – it has to be whole hearted and avoid management jargon
  • Make the statement a call to action – use active verbs.

We know that understanding what motivates us greatly increases our chances of achieving goals.   Equally, we can stay on course best if others also know and can help us on the journey.  For this reason, allow trusted colleagues to help you find, clarify and align yourself to your personal purpose.  It will make you a better leader.






Bad Things Leaders Do – Do You?

The leadership guru Marshall Goldsmith produced a list of 20 common failures in how leaders behave. Spend a minute mentally ticking off which ones you are guilty of, and pick one that you will stop doing this week. Be honest. If you can’t be honest enough, ask someone else to do it for you:

  1. Winning Too Much: the need to win at all costs and in all situations—when it matters, when it doesn’t, and when it’s totally beside the point.
  2. Adding Too Much Value: the overwhelming desire to add our tuppence worth to every discussion.
  3. Passing Judgment: the need to rate others and impose our standards on them.
  4. Making Destructive Comments: the needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty.
  5. Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However”:  the overuse of these qualifiers, which secretly say to everyone, “I’m right. You’re wrong.”
  6. Telling the World How Smart We Are:  the need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.
  7. Speaking When Angry:  using emotional volatility as a management tool.
  8. Negativity:  the need to share our negative thoughts, even when we weren’t asked.
  9. Withholding Information: the refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.
  10. Failing to Give Proper Recognition:  the inability to praise and reward.
  11. Claiming Credit We Don’t Deserve: the most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.
  12. Making Excuses:  the need to reposition our annoying behaviour as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
  13. Clinging to the Past:  the need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past; a subset of blaming everyone else.
  14. Playing Favourites: failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.
  15. Refusing to Express Regret:  the inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognise how our actions affect others.
  16. Not Listening:  the most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.
  17. Failing to Express Gratitude:  the most basic form of bad manners.
  18. Punishing the Messenger:  the misguided need to attack the innocent, who are usually only trying to protect us.
  19. Passing the Buck:  the need to blame everyone but ourselves.
  20. An Excessive Need to Be “Me”:  exalting our faults as virtues simply because they exemplify who we are.

So, take the ONE thing that you know you do from that list…and stop doing it this week. If you are brave and disciplined enough, come back to the list next week and take another ‘habit’ and focus on undoing it. And so on…


Page 10 of 70

On Leadership

Steven Covey "What you do has far greater impact than what you say." 

Useful Links

Leadership and Management Network
This website aims to help you achieve your business goals through building Management and Leadership capabilities.

John Adair Leadership & Management
Official website of Professor John Adair.


Restore Default Settings