JSJ 403: Why Developers Need Social Skills with Mani Vaya
The panel talks about their observations from work that the people who advanced and grow in their career were the ones with social skills, not necessarily with technical skills. The company wants to get stuff done, and if your social skills are getting in the way of projects getting done because you can't work with others, you are not that useful to the company, and you will be stuck in the lower ranks while others who may not have the same technical skills will rise in the ranks because they are pleasant to work with. Mani talks about his personal experience getting laid off for lacking these soft skills. But then he read the book 48 Laws of Power by Robert Green, realized his shortcomings, and started to apply just one lesson from the book. Within 6 months, he was promoted.
Mani delves deeper into the first lesson taught in 48 Laws of Power, Never Outshine the Master. Fundamentally, this means that you don't try to prove in meetings how good you are, or that they're wrong, or that you think that you are better than them. The more you the aforementioned things, the less likely you will be to get promoted or trusted. Mani talks about how he used to do these things and how it cost him multiple jobs. When he put this lesson into practice, he changed his methods and the boss started to like him, leading to his promotion 6 months later. The panel discusses this lesson and what benefits can come from it.
Mani shares another lesson that he learned through the story of a friend trying to get him to invest in his business. After Mani refused to invest multiple times, his friend stopped asking him to invest, but instead asked him for business advice. Eventually, Mani invested in the business because when he saw that his friend was influenced by his advice, it engendered trust between them. The panel agrees that if you want to influence someone, you have to be influenced by them. It is important to treat someone as a person rather than an asset or wallet, and ensure them that their investment is not their end goal. One of the most fundamental social skills that you must be able to like people, because other people can smell manipulation.
The panel transitions to talking about the paradoxical nature of social skills and that they are often the opposite of what you think will work in a situation. Unfortunately, there will always be difficult people to work with. To illustrate how to work with difficult people, Mani shares the story of how Gengis Khan was convinced not to destroy a city of artists and engineers by his advisor, Yelu Chucai. Gengis Khan agreed because Yelu Chucai was able to structure his plea in a way that would also benefit Gengis Khan.
The conversation shifts to how to conduct an interview to see if a candidate will fit into your team culture. First, you must know what you're looking for and understand your team culture, and then ask for stories of when they accomplished something in the interview. If every story is all about how they did something and they don't include other people, then that may indicate their self-centeredness. They discuss the Ben Franklin Effect.
Charles Max Wood
With special guest: Mani Vaya
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48 Laws of Power by Robert Green
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Charles Max Wood:
How do you evaluate your interpersonal skills?
For Mani, it was not getting promoted and having a friend tell him that he needed to work on his social skills. It’s also a mindset of thinking “this is something I want to improve on”, and you’re never done improving.
Why are social skills so important for developers to have?
The company wants to get stuff done, and if your social skills are getting in the way of projects getting done because you can’t work with others, you are not that useful to the company, and you will be stuck in the lower ranks while others who may not have the same technical skills will rise in the ranks because they are pleasant to work with.
What business lesson can I learn from the story of Yelu Chucai and Gengis Khan?
Yelu Chucai convinced Gengis Khan that they could make more money off of a city of artists and engineers from taxes than from pillaging and destroying it. If you find yourself working with a difficult person, try to show them that your idea will benefit them too.
What is the Ben Franklin Effect?
Someone who has done you one favor is likely to do you another. So, if you want to get people to trust and like you, ask them for a favor.