How to be a better boss by Google's standards

Are you as good as Google's "better boss" category?

All executives I talk to want to feel they are in the "better boss" category. The trick is to know better compared to what. And better judged by whom. In my ongoing quest to answer those questions I started looking at what different successful organizations considered a "better boss" was like.  I found an article  the NY Times published a few years ago titled: "Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss." It’s a report on a study Google undertook to find out what makes a boss most successful. I think that could be a reliable measure to use.  

Mr. Bock’s group found what employees valued most were even-keeled bosses who made time for one-on-one meetings, who helped people puzzle through problems by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who took an interest in employees’ lives and careers.

It should not surprise us that a focus on and return to the "basics" of effective business communication and human relationship is the secret, not only of being a successful leader, but also to dealing with the current complexity.

People talk about business challenges becoming so complex that nobody can understand them or do anything about them.  What organizations and businesses need most is to know how to create effective communication cultures that can collaboratively deal with complexity.

Let’s review high-impact communication strategies that will help you be a "better boss." By practicing these strategies, you will help your organization not only adapt to the new complex challenges and changing conditions of these uncertain times but actually thrive. 


Listening may be the single most powerful skill of effective communication for it is an act of respect and of valuing others. When we listen and seek to understand first, we also create more receptivity for the other person to hear us. It helps create an environment of safety, where people are willing to take risks and new learning can occur.  Complex challenges can only be resolved by those who feel they can share their thoughts and are continually learning.

Listening includes eye contact, listening without thinking of one’s rebuttals or preparing for what to say next, listening for emotional content as well as information, and asking questions to clarify meaning.

Test judgments and assumptions

We tend to make judgments, both positive and negative. Whether we are judging ourselves or others, judgment shuts down creativity, imagination and learning. Judgments will limit your ability to listen and learn something new.   

Assumptions act as lenses or filters for our perceptions.  Because each of us has a unique life experiences, we each carry a unique set of assumptions. We also have shared assumptions which tend to glue us together. 

Different judgements and assumptions in and of themselves don’t create problems so much as the need to be right about them!  Effective communication demands that we test our judgements and assumptions as well as clarify those of others.  Only then can we know that we are speaking a shared language of meaning. 

Strive to first be aware of your judgments and assumptions.  In so doing, you can become clear that this is your reaction. You can then more objectively bring it into the conversation as an interpretation, not as “the truth.” 


Inquiry is about asking questions and holding an attitude of curiosity.  Questions create new levels of understanding and learning. Inquiry can deepen your ability to think systemically because questions often reveal the relationships among the parts that make up the whole. Complex issues need systemic thinking. 

You need to view your organization as a system of human interactions rather than as a machine or military organization with rigid rules. Be flexible. Be curious. Ask questions.    

Personal Advocacy

Effective business communication require that you share your thoughts and feelings. Embrace uncertainties and differences of opinion. Don’t shy away from tension and disagreement. Nevertheless, share in a way that helps open, not close, communication.


Balance data and intuition. Data alone shouldn’t dictate what you do.  Combine measurement, standards, and controls (the rational) with trial and error, risk taking, and autonomy (experiments and intuition). Diversity of people and thoughts can help bring this balance.

Positive action

Let your direction arise from what works. Don’t try to be “sure” before you proceed with anything. There is no single path to solve complex challenges. But in the multitude of collaborative action, things can get done.

Effective business communication is the main secret for dealing with complex challenges. It will also decrease individual and organizational conflict, speeding up innovation, and increasing productivity and profit. 

Reflect and Comment

How can you encourage more effective communication in your organization?  Share your comments with us.

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