To Be A Strong Leader, Hire People Smarter Than You
What exactly does the phrase "hire people smarter than you" mean? In the purest form, the phrase means exactly what it says. Far too often, managers hire people whose skill sets are similar to their own. Diversity in personnel is essential, but what about diversity in thought?
For starters, I should take a moment to explain my credentials: I have worked in the field of human resources for over 15 years. I have two bachelor’s degrees and two master’s degrees, and am working toward my Ph.D. in organizational development. I think of myself as intelligent and able to resolve most HR issues, and as a leader who does not have time for self-preservationists. That said, I also want to work with people who are subject matter experts.
Hiring people who are smarter than you is an art form and a task that takes practice. Early in my tenure in this field as a hiring manager, I had several high-profile resignations. This was an opportunity for me to take a look in the mirror and wonder if I was the reason that these teammates were leaving. Ultimately, through their exit interviews, I gained a better understanding and learned that it was not me; it was them wanting to get back into the areas of HR where they were experts.
Even earlier, in my non-HR career, I was a manager for a former internet service. I would challenge my team to see who could have the best call times. Looking back on my early management days makes me appreciate the journey that has brought me to where I am today. You see, challenging your team to a duel over who can have the best stats is hardly leadership; it's saying to your people that you're better at their job than they are. I know a few of us are guilty of this practice.
As HR professionals, we know that we can recruit. We know that we can run payroll and ensure that benefits are provided. We also know that we can train with the best trainers. But as leaders, it's not our job to functionally do each of these tasks. It's our teams'.
As a leader, it is vital to keep yourself from falling into the trap of doing the jobs or tasks of your team. Instead, ensure they have the necessary tools to do their job. What does this all mean, and how does it relate to hiring people who are smarter than you?
Simple: Hire people who excel in different areas than you do. Give them the ability to succeed by providing a playing field that matches their skill set. Give employees the opportunities to get out in front of the leaders and co-workers they support. Build the bridges they need to be successful, and set the example. Do not be fake. Your employees are smart, and they know when they work for a person who lacks sincerity and integrity.
Challenge your employees to push themselves, and allow them to demonstrate the reasons why you hired them. Interviewing should be about learning that the candidate can display a specific competency. Hiring enables the new employee to prove their competency. A good leader sets the employee up for success by staying out of their way and allow them to work. After all, these subject matter experts are the ones who will demonstrate a skill set and knowledge that strengthens the entire department and the organization, including you, their leader.
Finally, give praise and appreciation at every turn. Tell your team members that you appreciate their work and that they are essential, and thank them for saying yes for coming to work with you.
Following these suggestions does not guarantee success, but it will at least bring you close to seeing how hiring people who are smarter than you is sustainable and efficient.