Oxygen – Part II

by Ron Potter

Last week we talked about the Project Oxygen findings at Google related to high-performing teams.

This list is from the book Work Rules by Laszlo Bock who is the person at Google that has helped shepherd the project.

The eight findings that help teams perform at their peak include:

  1. A good coach
  2. Empowers the team and does not micromanage
  3. Expresses interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being
  4. Is productive and results-oriented
  5. A good communicator – listens and shares information
  6. Helps with career development
  7. Has a clear vision and strategy for the team
  8. Has key technical skills that help advise the team

Leadership or Team membership

As I said last week, my mental model puts some of these in the Leadership category and some in the Team category.  Some fit both.  I’ll distinguish how I see each of these but you can fit them into your own Mental Model.

2. Empowers the team and does not micromanage

The word empower has been misunderstood and used in recent years.  Most of the time we’re actually talking about delegation, not empowerment.  In this case, I believe either word can apply.


The word “empowerment” refers to influence.  The purpose is to build up confidence and self-esteem.  If you are empowered with a piece of the business, you can influence that piece of the business, but the authority clearly lies with the leader.  Empowerment is granted by the leader to grow confidence and self-esteem.


Delegation, on the other hand, means that a piece of the business has been entrusted to you.  With teams, most of them should be entrusted with their piece of the business.  Entrusting a piece of the business requires trust and respect between members.

3.  Expresses interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being

Individual success is one part of this equation.  Helping members of a team be successful will help the team be successful.

The other aspect of personal well-being is often overlooked.  With almost every team I ever worked with I ran an exercise (regularly) that I called “Human Beings, not Human Doings.”  In this exercise, team members got to know each other based on who they were, not what they did.  Often, after running this exercise someone would make a statement that expressed the fact they had known and worked with an individual for many years (15+ in one case) and they never knew “that” about that person.  All of a sudden, many actions seemed to make sense and there was a true sense of caring and empathy for the person which often helped them be more successful and better understood.

4.  Is productive and results-oriented

Team members must be trustworthy.  We’ve looked many times at character and competence which are the two elements of being trustworthy.  An individual must have character and at the same time, they must be competent at the same time.

A person may be the most honest, high integrity, highly principled person there is (great character) but if they don’t know how to do their job, they are not trustworthy.  A person may be the best at their job (highly competent) but if they don’t also have high character (honesty, integrity, principled) they will not be trusted by the team.  They will not be trustworthy.  Both need to be present.

5.  A good communicator – listens and shares information

The key to this one is listening with the intent to understand, rather than listening with the intent to respond.  If you’re listening with the intent to respond (as most of us do most of the time) we’re running a little checklist in our brain as we’re “listening” to the other person.  This checklist may include things we agree with, things we don’t agree with or anything that we want to reinforce or negate as soon as there is a break in the talking.  However, the goal is not to understand, the goal is to respond.  When we listen to understand we start asking a whole different set of questions and the other person feels we’re making an effort to understand them.  When the other person feels that way, they are much more interested in what we have to say when it’s our turn.

Google Oxygen Project

Next week we’ll wrap of the last of the eight findings of the Google Oxygen Project.


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