Smarty Pants

Think about the most brilliant people you know. Do they own or run a company or do they work for someone else? Chances are that they fall into both categories. For many years I’ve been trying to hire people who are smarter than am I. Fortunately I’ve succeeded in a number of cases and it certainly pays big dividends.

Across the business landscape you will find many employers who simply won’t hire scary-smart people. You’ll hear a wide range of excuses – they are too high maintenance, they’ll stick around for a short period of time and then they’ll leave, and others in the organization will resent them. For the most part this is simply code for, “I feel threatened when I have to deal with someone smarter.” Politicians are the worst offenders. Many of them have egos that are so big that they always want to be the smartest people in the room. That’s why we see so many blunders and missteps in our political and legislative process. If really smart people in much greater numbers were advising our elected officials, perhaps things might be better in the public arena.

In the entrepreneurial world we can see the result of not hiring the smartest people simply by looking at the politicians and their staffs. To begin with, we have to avoid the ego trap that doesn’t allow us to admit that there are people who have great ideas . . . maybe even better than ours! Once we get this out of the way it’s a downhill run from there. The word gets around that we are looking for the best and brightest and they beat a path to our door. Right? Well, maybe, but there is more work to be done for this to happen.

First, we must truly value the opinions of others. I can tell you that I went through a period in my career where I would seek the input of others but wasn’t convincing that I really wanted it. Rather than incorporate the suggestions of others, I simply went ahead and did things the way I wanted. I wasn’t doing this intentionally – I just didn’t know how to take such input and do anything with it. Hand-in-hand with this problem was the fact that I was way too controlling in the decision-making process. So, not only was I not valuing the opinions of others, but I was also shutting them out when it came to deciding what to do.

Smart people want to take real responsibility. They want to be coached – not told what to do. They want to believe that they are valuable to an organization and not just another cog in the wheel. Smart people need to understand our vision for the future and what role they will play along the way. They need to be challenged. Woe be to the entrepreneur who allows smart people to become bored! Keep piling on the challenges at a manageable pace and don’t stop. Above all, show gratitude on a regular basis, but don’t hesitate to provide constructive criticism when necessary. Most of this advice applies for every member of the team, but it’s especially critical for the high achievers.

When we get our ego out of the way, we open up a world of possibilities in terms of hiring amazingly gifted talent. In so doing, we create organizations that are better able to compete and win at an extremely high level.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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