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Google's Larry Page on Best Companies' Practices


The CEO of Google offers a number of tips for building a better workplace. Among them: A great environment is a self-reinforcing one.


Last week I reviewed Fortune’sBest Companies to Work For,” which, unfortunately for a service industry, included but about 5 health care systems. After discussing some of the useful things that a doc can do, either as a proprietor or as an employee (e.g. focus on hiring, especially character and personality rather than technical ability, which can be learned), I shared some of Fortune’s interview with Larry Page, co-founder, and current CEO, of Google, the list’s top company to work for, for the third consecutive year.

Last week, after discussing Page’s list, starting with 1) giving your work meaning (a given for docs), and 2) trust your people, we covered 3) “hiring people who are better than you.” Page’s #4 is to conduct performance reviews only after calibrating with the rest of the staff, as your lone impression of objectives met might be incomplete.

This assessment is related to #5, the realization that if someone is struggling in their work it is usually because they are in the wrong role, not because they are inept. This is another reason why hiring carefully is so important.

#6 is knowing when to be frugal and when to be generous. “Save your big checks for when people are most in need, tragedy or joy.” And that correlates with #7, “Pay unfairly.” By this he means that “90% of the value in your team comes from 10% of the people.” Pick whomever you assess is in that top 10%, tell them, and pay them, even if you can’t afford a lot.

So Page goes on to #8, “The Nudge.” Does your work environment encourage a high standard? Is it clean, up to date? Do people feel productive with your physical set-up? Does it stimulate efficient work flow? Your “home away from home” should nudge you along, not present artificial obstacles to make things more difficult to accomplish.

Part of your effort to improve and maximize your workplace is managing expectations and getting “buy-in.” That means tell people you are “experimenting” with ideas and what do they think? Sometimes they have a better idea than you do, and even if they don’t, they’ll appreciate your asking and extend at least the benefit of the doubt to the new proposal.

The established attitudes and habits of the work force approaching workplace challenges comprise what is loosely known as “culture.” And the Fortune article puts in caps “A company’s culture is even more important than its leadership, according to a Deloitte study of 3,300 executives.”

Page’s last point is important. These ideas are not a one-time effort. Rather, they are part of an ongoing cultural shift toward a happier and more productive work environment. His Big Point is that a great environment is a self-reinforcing one. It feeds upon itself to become both a fun and hard-working office.

“The simple secret is that every great place to work is based on relationships, not transactions.” And it is surprising how many employers do not get this simple fact. Finally, Page says “Enjoy! And then go back to #1 and start again.”

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