4 Valuable Leadership Lessons From My Google Days

badger maps_steve benson

I believe that Google is one of the best big companies to work at. They do a great job of building an amazing culture and they really care about their employees. It’s very impressive how they’ve been able to maintain a small company feel, in terms of speed and agility, by keeping the teams small and breaking up the company into several parts.

Culture is hard to define in a company, but if everyone seems to have something in common, has the same goals, and functions as one unit, they probably have a strong culture. At Google, we called it ‘being Googley’,and as silly as that sounds, it was a real thing.

I learned a lot about what it takes to be a impactful leader during my time at Google. I was able to work with and manage several teams. Here are some key leadership lessons from Google I’d like to share with you.

Leadership Lessons from Google

1. It’s All About the Team

Recruiting, hiring, and constantly training your employees is one of the most important parts of your leadership role. Make your team’s success your priority by investing enough time and effort into it. It’s crucial to build and develop a team that works well together and provide an environment they can thrive in.

When it comes to hiring the right-fit candidates, I’ve learned that someone with loyalty, commitment, and grit is likely to create more value for a company than someone who is brilliant and has a great resume. I’m not saying you should ignore their qualifications, but it’s just as important to hire people who are loyal and looking to be a part of something for the long term.

An organization is made up of its people, and those who’ve been around for awhile are invaluable to its culture and success.

I remember the HR executives from Google saying, “We get our best employees through referrals from current employees.” You should encourage all employees at your company, or your team members, to bring you great leads.

This means you need to have employees sit down with friends of friends who come highly recommended. It keeps costs low and quality high. This has been a key element of our recruiting strategy at Badger Maps as well.

Steve benson_badger maps
Steve Benson, ex Googler and CEO of Badger Maps

2. Always in School

Training and coaching your team and helping each individual reach their full career potential is an important aspect of leadership. I spend my time split between two roles – leader of a software company and principal of a career training school!

Every Friday afternoon, we have an ‘open mic’ session, where we discuss what’s going on in the company, and I communicate anything strategic that comes to mind. We’re a very transparent business and no topic is off limits in these meetings. Depending on how transparent your organization is, it can be a very effective way to regularly have a conversation with all your employees in a scalable way.

One great thing you can do to constantly teach your employees as a leader is provide the platforms for them to teach things to each other. This is especially true when there are many people on a team who are doing similar jobs and performing similar tasks – for example a sales team. We have Google Presentations that are shared across a team, and organized by topic.

When someone runs into a question, or figures out how to do something, they can create a slide on the topic, so everyone can benefit from it. When someone asks me a question, I don’t just answer it for them, I add it to the doc for the whole team. Since we organize them by job role, these resources have proven to be extremely effective for quickly on-boarding new employees as well.

Its a team sport

3. Success is a Team Sport

One of the key lessons in my career is that although I’m a businessperson, I behave like a coach, teacher, and mentor. I’ve always focused on making the people around me successful, and doing my best to help them along their path in their career and in life. They, in turn, have made me successful. Even when it doesn’t appear that it would help at all, I always help them out and give feedback and advice. More often than not this helps me and my organization perform at our best.

A good example of this was the first person I was a mentor to at Google, Kyle Williams. It was his first job out of college, and he was assigned to be my inside sales person – meaning his role was to find leads and generate interest in my sales territory. I did my best to teach him everything I knew and make him as successful as possible a his first job. It turned out he was the top performing inside sales person at Google that year.

Coincidentally, I was Google Enterprise’s top performing salesperson that year. Success is a team sport and by being a great teacher and mentor, your team is far more likely to succeed.

4. The Power of Diversity

I believe that having a balance in terms of diverse perspectives on a leadership team is one of the most important things a company can do. If a company fails to do so, and fails to do it early, the result is a weaker understanding of their (generally diverse) customers, an organization that is not a welcoming place for diverse people to be employed, and a company that becomes dominated by a particular personality type and culture.

When we were hiring, Google was very conscious of gender balance on a team, and they tried hard to be accommodating to diversity. They genuinely value diverse perspectives on their leadership teams and throughout the organization.

Running my own company, I have also found the importance of cultural and nationality diversity, and having people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, in addition to gender diversity. I don’t just think that it’s the right thing to do, I also think it helps us be a better company, because we can serve customers from all types of backgrounds and in different languages.

What other aspects of leadership do you think are integral to a company’s success? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

2 thoughts on “4 Valuable Leadership Lessons From My Google Days”

  1. Good point about how training your employees is one of the most important parts of your leadership role. Training makes the difference between good performance and great performance!

  2. The side effect of diversity is conflict. Generally good conflict. But I think a good leader is one that can help the team understand the difference between constructive and destructive conflict – and to be comfortable with constructive conflict.


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