What Managers & Leaders Can Learn From Google Maps

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Google maps is the best example of what good communication looks like. It is worth breaking down how they seamlessly guide us from point A to point B without making us feel frustrated, micromanaged, or without a paddle.

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First, google maps understands that you could go anywhere. If someone is a long time teammate then maybe they can survey the landscape and determine where to go. Inevitably, as a leader, you will have to delegate something to either the newest teammate or the longest tenured veteran. This requires different approaches.

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One thing that should never change is beginning with the end in mind. This is what the military calls “commander’s intent”, which says “if our leader leaves us, where are we supposed to be going?” Commander’s (Leader’s) intent can be accomplished by telling the team where they are going, why it is important, and when it is due. The why may seem blatantly obvious to you, but this cannot be ignored. Always start with why.

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Google maps let’s the user determine their communication needs. As a leader, this is something you need to learn about your people. Google maps provides 3 options.

Do they need:

  • No guidance at all
    • Veteran who thrives with ownership
  • Alerts only
    • Most people probably live here, when things change they should be made aware to avoid frustrations
  • Step by step instructions
    • This should be done for new employees or for extremely sensitive projects
    • Be very careful with step by step instructions
      • Done too often this will be annoying/discouraging for the employee and may lead to bad habits/dependencies
      • Not done when necessary may lead them to feel like they are on an island with no support

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We should take google maps’ lead by telling our teammates, who do not need step by step instructions, the “what” and the “why” while letting them determine the “how”. There may be multiple ways to accomplish the mission. They should be made aware of potential roadblocks, but ultimately determine how they want to get there within the parameters set out by the leader. This will promote ownership and creativity.

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Lastly, a good leader knows when to check in, what the teammate should need to be aware of along the way, and be able to pull them out of the weeds when necessary.

Not to be overlooked is feedback at the finish line. Whether it is a simple “you made it” or a discussion about what can be done differently those are important as well. Google maps even now provides an end of year view on all the places we’ve been…

…and with that I will let Google Maps guide me off to the Shenandoah. Cheers!

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