Sarah asked me how to lead people who are smarter. This is a great question and one that I have wrestled with in the past. These are my thoughts Sarah 😉
Back in the day (am I even old enough to be able to say that?), I was nervous about making my first hire. Recruiting my first person to join the team and help us grow. This guy Matt was one of a kind. He was in his early 20’s, training for an ultra-marathon, which is an average of 100 kilometres in extreme environments like the mountains, desert or freezing cold. Bloody ridiculous! (but amazing). He was also completing his MBA. He was eager, motivated and came across as a ferocious learner. So why was I nervous because he was so good that I would run out of things to teach him. He was going to be better than me… and soon. I didn’t admit this out loud. I was embarrassed that my ego was responding this way, until I had a conversation with my Manager at the time, who was Paul. Paul told me that it’s always better to hire people that are better than you, as long as you give them the freedom they need and set expectations up front, about what’s ok and not ok. Brilliant! Such a simple reframe. Whilst I would like to say I was so evolved that I just got over my insecurities and moved on – it isn’t that simple.
It’s our relationship with ourselves that makes a big difference in making peace with having smarter, brilliant, confident people around you. The more I make peace with my strengths and know that I will NEVER be good at my weaknesses then it’s easier for me to have brilliant people around me and in my world. Yes, we know that comparison is the killer of joy but that doesn’t make us stop doing it. It’s only when we can make peace with our flaws and weaknesses that that game of comparison dissipates.
In the book, Daring to Lead, Brene Brown states that ‘We need real courage to recognise when we can’t fully serve the people we lead’. What’s she saying is that we can’t have all the answers for our team or colleagues. We can just have enough. So no longer do I have all the answers but what I do have is great questions. I have learned to ask questions of them when they come to me with a problem:
- How do they know that’s the real problem? What’s the evidence?
- How would they go about solving it? What would others do?
- What’s the risk of doing it that way? What’s another way?
- What’s been done before? What’s a crazy way of solving it?
- What do we need to do to move forward? Who else can help?
If we came up with a great solution together – didn’t that just add great value? and make them feel like I supported and helped? Yes is the answer, together with my experience. Most people just want your time and your attention. You don’t have to be Einstein to give that.
Hiring smarter people than us is like getting your OCD partner to do the cleaning – the way they like. Now who’s the clever one now hey?!
PS – Matt went on to run the most successful HR Exec Search firm in the world, he ran over 5 ultra-marathons, bought an island, and set up an ecofriendly state of the art farm, and win numerous awards. He is committed to giving back to the world and the community and this is only the stuff I know about. How could you not want to work with amazing people!
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