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This year, I’m going to take a leap of faith and assume everyone around me at work is smarter than I am. As implausible as it sounds (I mean seriously, this is me we’re talking about here), there’s a couple of reasons for doing so.
The first one is pretty simple – to constantly motivate myself to learn more, know more and do more. The last thing any professional needs is to become conceited and assume he or she knows all the best and possible ways of doing their job.
The second one is more pragmatic. In today’s drastically evolving global and multi-generational business landscape, it’s always possible to encounter a situation where you are able to work for or with someone who is smarter than you – be it in terms of skills, academic qualification or even life experience.
By assuming these colleagues know more than I do, I’m not displaying any form of insecurity about my own strengths, rather doing it in order to inspire myself to learn from the strengths of others.
But it’s a different thing altogether when I don’t have to work under or with a smarter colleague – but rather manage one.
The reason here is, again, simple.
When a candidate with a flawless track record applies for a job he or she is clearly overqualified for, employers become nervous.
First, they feel that such staff won’t be happy working for a manager with less experience than them. They fear these individuals will become bored in their positions as they won’t have as many new skills to learn or leave as soon as they find a better opportunity. Employers also fear these job seekers might expect a higher salary or lack genuine interest in the company.
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But as studies have repeatedly shown, hiring smarter candidates is, in fact, beneficial for companies.
It has been proven that overqualified staff do, in fact, demonstrate higher levels of performance not just in their role, but in terms of discretionary efforts of going above and beyond what the job description states.
This is mainly because when over qualification becomes a norm rather than the exception within a team, the overqualified employees have a more positive view of themselves and perform better.
As a result, they exhibit more of the desired organisational citizenship behaviours, such as interpersonal compatibility and enthusiasm.
With such benefits in store, it is essential for employers to overcome their own nervousness and reluctance and go ahead and hire such staff.
That is why my assumption about my colleagues, especially subordinates, being smarter than me is useful – it forces me to seek to manage expectations and negotiations above all else.
Communicating with staff clearly about the learning opportunities and benefits the job or task at hand is expected to bring, and the compensation they can expect to receive, limits the possibility of any future disappointments.
Additionally, it forces me to demonstrate genuine interest in employees’ work, especially if their methods are difficult to understand. I end up being curious about how or why they do things a certain way and have, in so many instances, asked them to retrace their steps in order to learn more about their process.
Additionally, if an employee asks a difficult question, I am compelled initially to show competence and knowledge from prior experiences.
Essentially, managing employees who are smarter than me inspires me to review my own management process – making it a win-win situation for all.
Have you ever stepped up, and embraced the opportunity to manage employees smarter than you? Why or why not? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.