All Zillow Group employees receive a 12-page book that breaks down how to be a great leader, and it all comes down to 4 principles

Zillow Group

  • Zillow Group has developed its own leadership playbook, which outlines four key management principles.
  • The book, which is based on employee surveys and feedback, explains what it takes to be an effective leader at Zillow.
  • According to Zillow’s chief people officer Dan Spaulding, “a great leader at Zillow Group isn’t perfect.”
  • Instead, the online real estate company is more focused on cultivating adaptive and reflective managers.

At Zillow Group, everyone knows exactly what it takes to be a leader. All they have to do is scan through the firm’s 12-page leadership playbook.

Business Insider spoke with chief people officer Dan Spaulding about the playbook, and the lessons contained therein. He said the book is meant to guide the company’s 600 plus managers, regardless of their specific role. Zillow Group CEO Spencer Rascoff even keeps a copy at his desk.

“We set out to define a common language and a framework around what leadership was going to look like here at Zillow Group,” Spaulding told Business Insider.

In order to assemble a “three-dimensional image of what a great leader looked like at Zillow Group,” Spaulding said the company spent about six months developing the book.

Dan SpauldingFirst, a company-wide survey on leadership and management went out to 1,700 employees in 2016. Then, over 50 employees from the C-suite down — all of whom had been either identified as top leaders or who worked for a standout manager — were interviewed directly. After that, Zillow held an in-depth feedback session with 150 top leaders.

The goal was to get a sense of what a top leader looked like at Zillow Group. Those snapshots of effective management were then boiled down to four core principles: caring, trust, productivity, and effective communication. Basically, Zillow Group employees favored bosses who demonstrated that they cared, avoided micromanagement, got stuff done, and maintained solid lines of communication.

The completed playbook is chock full of leadership principles, tactics, and examples. Zillow Group employees can access the work through the company’s internal website.

Spaulding said he was most struck by the emphasis on caring.

“We all want to see care from our manager,” Spaulding said. “We all want to know that our leader cares about us as individuals and does everything they can to support us in the day-to-day execution of our jobs. If you do nothing else, let the person who’s working for you know that you care about them and that you are here to do what you can to support them.”

The resulting playbook also served to dispell the “myth” of the “perfect leader,” according to Spaulding.

“A great leader at Zillow Group isn’t perfect,” Spaulding said. “It’s a person who is paying attention to where they and their team are right now. They are constantly adjusting and adapting their style to be as supportive as possible.”

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