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These are the 3 Skills that Every Manager Should Have, According to a Silicon Valley Psychologist

Successful managers set goals for their team and communicate them clearly, build a culture of trust, and adopt a "growth mindset."

  • BetterUp is a startup that provides executive coaching for tech employees in Silicon Valley.
  • We asked them to crunch user data and find the three skills that mid-level managers work on the most with their coaches.

When a worker bee gets promoted to manager, they may learn that the technical skills they mastered as an employee won't carry them as far in a leadership role.

That's according to a startup called BetterUp, which provides coaching to employees of tech companies in Silicon Valley, including Facebook, Salesforce, and LinkedIn. Employees meet virtually with licensed therapists, psychologists, and coaches for on-the-clock counseling.
Founded in 2013, BetterUp works mostly with mid-level managers who show potential, according to their employers - though they could benefit from grooming.

"Unlike the C-suite executives who have been around the block," new managers have a chance to develop their soft skills without having to "unlearn" certain unhelpful behaviors, according to Dr. Jacinta Jiménez, a psychologist who heads up the coaching department at BetterUp.

We asked BetterUp to crunch the data and find the three skills that new managers worked on the most with their coaches. They were: goal-setting and team communications, building a culture of trust, and "growth mindset." Here's what that means.

Set goals for your team and communicate that message clearly.

Most managers start out as high-performing employees. They may have been promoted because of their skill set. And their instinct may be to take on all the work themselves.

"It's a fast way for them to become overworked, and it's not good for anyone," Jiménez, who has worked with many tech workers in her coaching career, told Business Insider.

A manager who sets clear goals for their direct reports may find that the team feels more valued and motivated, because the manager has shown trust in their abilities. Goals that show an understanding of the employee's strengths and what inspires them may excite them even more.

Jiménez added that it's important for a manager to be consistent in their communication.

"It's hard for the direct report to be motivated if you don't have clear directions," she said.


Build a culture where everyone feels like they can contribute.

The most successful managers create an environment where everyone feels like they can participate and do their best work.

"You're sitting in a meeting with your whole team and you don't feel like your manager is going to shut you down if you say something like, 'Hey, I have a really great idea,'" Jiménez said.

Amy Edmondson, whose research in leadership and management at Harvard Business School helped shape some of BetterUp's methodology, believes that a leader builds a culture of trust when they "find out what others know, what they bring to the table, and what they can add."

She recommends managers ask genuine questions and listen closely, show enthusiasm when a team meets its goals, and be interested in everyone's perspective no matter their place on the corporate ladder. When a leader models these behaviors, creativity and innovation thrive.

Embrace the F-word: failure.

New managers have a tendency to think about personal growth in shades of black and white.

""I'm either made for management or I'm not" is a fixed mindset, and it's going to set someone up for failure in a lot of ways," Jiménez said. "You start to try to prove it to yourself."

Jiménez says the key to success is stepping out of that fixed mindset and developing a "growth mindset" - the idea that we can grow our brain's capacity to learn and to solve problems.
It may sound wishy-washy, but this skill is based in research from psychologist Carol Dweck, whose work in the field of motivation has helped shape BetterUp's methodology.

Jiménez tells managers when the voice in their head jumps to a conclusion - like, "I should have been able to do that," or "I know what this person is thinking" - they should acknowledge the thought, take a mental note of it or log it in a journal, and move onto the next thought.

"We sometimes say, 'Embrace the F-word: failure!'" Jiménez said.

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Career Advice: These are the 3 Skills that Every Manager Should Have, According to a Silicon Valley Psychologist
These are the 3 Skills that Every Manager Should Have, According to a Silicon Valley Psychologist
Successful managers set goals for their team and communicate them clearly, build a culture of trust, and adopt a "growth mindset."
Career Advice
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