It is almost a truism to say that business owners and managers should employ better people than themselves in their business. The idea is promoted by many successful business leaders and management ‘gurus’. At a base level, it reduces the chances of the business leader’s competence being a bottleneck for success. More positively, it provides the wherewithal for accelerated development.
As a good idea, however, it presents problems. Successful business owners senior managers have achieved because they are good at what they do. Entrepreneurs will have created a product or service that outshines their competitors. Senior managers will have been good at solving problems and coming up with answers. Employing specialists in areas of weakness presents few problems; many business leaders are happy to engage Accountants or HR specialists, for instance, and not feel intimidated. On the other hand, having someone smarter or better than you at the things you do well is likely to leave you feeling, at the very least, uncomfortable, if not undermined.
The danger for owners or managers is that their insecurity compromises the benefits of having smarter people working for them. Their competitive urge can all too easily come to the fore and an uneasy contest ensue; and ultimately, there can only be one winner. Problems may manifest themselves as too readily finding fault; monitoring excessively, or micro-managing because people are doing things their own way instead of yours.
Sometimes, new and smart people are left to their own devices and as a consequence have felt unappreciated or lacking direction. Clashes occur when the employee becomes disgruntled or it comes to light that they been delivering the wrong objective. An engineer, for instance, may focus on creating perfect or innovative products when they should have been ensuring consistent quality of existing products.
The recommended solutions for managing smarter people working for you are to ‘lose your ego’ and to ignore feelings of insecurity. Easier said than done – even Buddhist monks take decades to let go of unhelpful motivations and desires, so goodness knows how long it will take senior people.
Managers must find their own solutions without the aid of a monastery, but as ever, the first step is to recognise when their ego is getting in the way. If you want to avoid being your own business’s bottleneck for growth, take heed and start the journey of making friends with your ego and your oh so very smart employees as soon as you can.