Why you don’t need to be the smartest person in the room
There is a smart new way to staff hiring.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world as we know it in so many ways. One of the most significant changes is the way we work. Working from home and flexible working arrangements have become the norm. Lockdown gave employees time and space to re-evaluate what was important to them, leading to the ‘Great Resignation’ and exacerbating the ‘war for talent.’
Power has shifted from employers to employees, and as the world prepares for the ‘Great Reopening’, companies need to put in place plans to attract and retain talent. Those organizations that place a big emphasis on making sure their employees are happy, motivated, and stimulated by their work will be the winners in this new reality.
Intelligence in hiring
One way to build better teams is to hire people smarter than you. It’s natural to be fearful that a smarter employee will make you appear inferior and potentially affect your own career prospects. Some managers are wary of hiring anyone who might be a potential threat to their own position. However, this is a ‘glass half empty’ attitude.
Leaders thrive when their teams thrive, and hiring exceptional employees is a shortcut to superior performance. Managing high-performing individuals is no less challenging than managing average employees; in most cases, it is easier. You have nothing to fear and everything to gain by hiring and developing smart employees.
Companies typically tend to base hiring decisions on resumes, references, experience, and interview skills, but none of these gives you a real indication of how well the person will fit into the existing culture. Instead, we should get to know potential employees as human beings.
Questions to consider include: Are their values aligned with the company’s values? Are they emotionally intelligent? Have they got the right attitude? Are they smart and confident enough to bring new ideas to the table? These are the traits companies should be hiring for. Technical skills can be taught. Intelligence, values, and the right attitude are more valuable commodities, particularly in the current environment.
According to the Harvard Business Journal, bad hiring decisions account for up to 80% of employee turnover. To reduce staff turnover, hire the smartest and most qualified person for the job. That may mean you have to check your ego at the door before you interview a candidate for a role. Instead of feeling threatened by smart job applicants, you should be excited at the prospect of learning from them and the new perspective they will bring to your organization.
Leaders who are brave enough to hire people who are smarter, more creative, or more talented than they are, create a healthy ‘virtuous circle’. It’s good for the new employee, and their knowledge, expertise, and attitude are good for the performance and reputation of everyone else in their team. Strong teams are good for the company and a great reflection on you as a leader, so it’s a win-win scenario for everyone.
Building a smart culture
It’s more important than ever to build a culture where employees feel valued. A recent study in the US found that 58 percent of employees said the pandemic forced them to rethink their work-life balance. That means companies that want to win the war for talent may need to rethink how they treat their employees. Workers no longer accept machine-like treatments by employers. They demand respect and a career that challenges and fulfills them. Leaders that can create an environment where employees are express themselves will be key to retaining good people.
In one of Steve Jobs’ last interviews, before he died in 2011, he compared Apple to a start-up where everyone’s contribution is valued, and teamwork makes the dream work.
“There’s tremendous teamwork at the top of the company, which filters down to tremendous teamwork throughout the company,” said Jobs. “Teamwork is dependent on trusting the other folks to come through with their part without watching them all the time but trusting they’re going to come through with their parts.”
“If you wanna hire great people and have them stay working for you, you have to let them make a lot of decisions and you have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy. The best ideas have to win, otherwise, good people don’t stay.”
Leaders are rarely evaluated on their individual accomplishments. What purpose would it serve to evaluate them individually? Instead, most leaders get their evaluation on their ability to recruit, coach, and motivate their people, both individually and collectively, — all of which are reflected in the results. That is why it does not look bad when you recruit top performers and channel their energy.
It’s important when you hire smart people, you give them the opportunity to shine. A manager’s role is to create the culture and conditions for the people in their team to succeed. The best leaders encourage and empower their team to take on more responsibilities, then listen and react to any challenges or concerns they might have, so they can focus on their core role — to lead. The leader’s job is to provide a clear and compelling vision and help their team meet their objectives to achieve company goals.
The fastest way to destroy a culture and employee morale is to hire good people and then fail to make the most of their talents. Investing in employees by offering them training and development programs and clear pathways to move within an organization are vital if companies want to retain their best talent. Successful organizations place a big emphasis on continuous learning and knowledge-sharing, which leads to greater employee engagement and a sense of belonging.
“Leadership is not about being in charge,” says Simon Sinek. “It is about taking care of those in our charge.”
When you consistently demonstrate your ability to build and lead high-performing teams and establish a reputation within your organization as a person who can attract and develop the best, your career will soar.
“Try never to be the smartest person in the room,” says Michael Dell, the founder of Dell Technologies. “And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people…or find a different room.”