Should we hire people smarter than ourselves?

"I am not sure whether I should hire this person or not - he seems to be too good for the job" - I often come across people who get pangs in their stomach while hiring people who are smarter than them.

Through my experiential learning, I have seen the best way to grow is to consolidate, eliminate, standardize and digitize the work and sustain the gain to institutionalize the processes and practices and then move on to more challenging and unpopular assignments as they take you places and certainly help you fast track your career growth.

One hitch which i have found that holds people back is; most of the managers are not ready to hire people who are smarter than them and invariably i have found these people stuck in their current job (doing it repeatedly year on year).
We as HR Professionals must imbibe and then build this with in the culture of the organization to ensure that individual managers do not tend to overlook the fact and get too focused on their current role and day to day nitty gritties. They must not forget the fact that if they need to grow, somebody should be able to get into their shoes! Hence, it is imperative that we as managers build capabilities of our staff. Being in operations and HR, I have personally tried it with multiple people and it has worked wonders.

As a manager, I believe, we must focus on building people capabilities taking into account individual aspiration to the mutual advantage of both the company as well as individual. Most of the managers, I have found, tend to focus solely on organization objectives and take their eyes off individual goals and objectives which results in avoidable conflict and high churn. Whether we accept it or not, the fact is majority of the people leave their managers and not their organization.

In a nutshell, let us eliminate our inhibitions and start hiring people who are smarter than us as they help us keep on the edge and also help us develop and reinvent ourselves constantly. Smarter people create a smarter company and smarter company perform better specifically in tough business scenario as we are in today. In my early HR days, One of my senior HR Leader in GE told me that half of your work as a leader is over if you hire people who are smarter than yourself, put the right structure in place and align right people to the right job. I have found it true and having applied this while being genuinely interested in people development, life as an HR professional has become far more simpler and enriching!

24 comments:

  1. Well Raj...I wld look at this as an EMOTIONAL IMMATURITY in leadership Issue . The organisations with Emotionally immature leadership tend to exhibit this as well as related behaviours in their management teams. In such a case plz address this issue by first convincing Top management to go through mentoring from result oriented HR professionals ( you may call them Gurus ).Once the leadership is Emtionally Mature , HR task becomes MOST PRODUCTIVE tool in productivity and overall development...
    For more discussions ....you may contact me on "jaijakhar@vsnl.net"
    Best wishes and M expecting your feedback
    JJ

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  2. Hi Jai,

    I certainly agree with you. As John C Maxwell rightly said “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

    I am happy to have Raj as my HR Leader,he knows the way, goes the way and shows the way to all his team mates.

    Regards,
    Priyanka

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  3. Hi Raj, I do agree with you. However, there are other inseparable dimensions added to HR leadership issues. First and the foremost being lack of sense of security and self belief. Such leadership mostly suffers with a high threat perception and hence, delegation is curtailed ! In this scenario, the leadership is alone responsible for generating an island around it and living within in. Of course, the productivity and development of the team will be marred by it. Secondly, HR is still treated a support function and its leadership is yet to travel a long way to become business partners. It is not allowed to participate in business decsions. To add further misery to it, HR remains non billable entity. In my opnion, thats the core issue to be focussed and dealt with.

    In view of the latter point, I do not quite agree with Jai. For simple reason, the top management companies are hired to carry out the study to identfy and address the issues.....but management is hardly found to have implemented the recommendations. To bring home the point, the top management prevails !!

    I wud be glad to know your opinion on the above.
    Raj - Logic Networks

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  4. Hi Raj, Appreciate your inputs. While i agree with you, i have strong point of view around HR leaders not being allowed to participate in business decision. In my view, this is more do with the business acumen and change management abilties which HR leaders bring to the table over and beyond their domain expertize. I find not many HR professional very very good at business / finance / change management and that is the root cause for their lack of involvement in decision making. As far as billabe is concerned, even CEO's and top leadership is not billable.

    I agree this is the core issue and it is upto us as HR professionals to change the paradigm.

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  5. Anonymous7:30:00 PM

    Hi Raj,i am very intersted your article.I am not a HR manager yet,all i know that not everyone is compeletly right.So we need mutual efforts,work together learn each other. Who smarter than me make me progress.But also a little jealous.

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  6. Anonymous12:21:00 PM

    Hi Raj

    First of all , I would like to tell you that I am not a trained HR professional . This is simply my perception of things because of my interaction with people.
    I feel hiring smart / smarter people is good for any organisation or any team to perform better , but that is usually restricted by Team Leaders when they are not that smart - only for the reason of insecurity . Probably a bit of jealousy but more of feeling of insecurity , because everyone needs a job security [ back of their mind , they have their families to be taken care of ]. I feel the solution to this would be counselling Team Leaders e.g by explaining them on the benefits of hiring smarter people which can result in showing the better performance of the team and meanwhile ensuring them on their job security and growth as well .
    Would like to have your comments on this

    Neha

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  7. Anonymous9:56:00 AM

    Raj..i think the most critical part is in the second half of the sentence ...if you are able to put the right structure in place and align right people to the right job which ..then who is the smarter one?

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  8. Hello Raj

    I believe that one should recruit an individual best suited for the intended role and benefit of the organisation or group concerned.

    Hiring someone smarter than oneself is not the underlying issue, what is more important is that the selected individual is able to accomplish not only their assigned and expected tasks well, but is also able to work efficiently and motivate team members who may or may not be as gifted as themselves.

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  9. Rakesh Sharma3:01:00 PM

    That is the only way we may come out fast from our current role and take new enhanced role in the business.

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  10. It is important to hire atleast few people who are smarter than you as they question established practices, think differently and facilitate growth in the team and thereby in the organisation. Having said this, it is equally important for you as an individual to upskill yourself from time to time.

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  11. Anonymous3:22:00 PM

    As a CEO and CFO I have always made my life easier by hiring smarter people than myself. I take the stand that in life there will always be people who are smarter than you and less smarter than you. Which group would you like to belong to?

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  12. hi Raj


    i totally agree with you hiring smarter people will help to build the better organization, but don't you think people in the leadership role should have the vision and clarity to direct the people in a right path , as well leader should not have insecure about their position and should not feel smart people are threat to their position , i think most of the company have this problems in leadership levels

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  13. Pankaj Choudhary4:37:00 PM

    My take is Hiring should be typically based on competency assessment for the job defined and not on comparision with self.
    Such comparision with self are more driven by feeling of insecurity which may be detrimental to the organization.

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  14. I do not know if I would call it "smarter than", but as you go up each level of the organizational hierarchy there should be value added. Each managerial level needs to have the ability to solve more complex problems and to visualize potential solutions farther into the future then their subordinate level.

    When a subordinate has the same, or greater, problem solving capability than their supervisor conflict can occur. The subordinate does not see the required value from their manager and will be subsequently frustrated. Quite common, this often lead to the subordinate looking to change jobs.

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  15. The essence of the article is right on the dot! I would however, modify the main message just a little bit....

    In my opinion, it is not about "hiring people smarter than us" - I feel that will constrain any leader. Instead I would say - it is about "hiring smart people" period. There does need to be any comparison. We should go and get the best possible individual for a given job. If he / she turns out to be better than us in certain ways, so be it. We can learn from the person and grow in the process.

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  16. That is the way to growth, if you could not overcome the ego of listening to your subordinate for better ideas, better do not be in business.

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  17. Anonymous11:46:00 PM

    When you have had such success in hiring smarter people than yourself, it is hard to change the habit however, an overwhelming majority of middle managers will not ahere to
    this practice. But, if you can convince upper managment of this practice, the rewards are enormous and they will filter in downstream.

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  18. certainly this has to be done..what i found and practically seen that managers don't like ppl who are smarter than them. They normally always try to show the person down by some or the other means...Also i was reading to an article by Mr. Premji and his main emphasis is on the same point that this kind of managers certainly don't like the persons and don't give due consideration on his or her reportee. and finally leads to unsatisfaction of the employee and ultimately the employee leave the organization. As per the data out of 100 it has been found that approx. 60%times the employee leave because of his manager...i think this data is enough to give an insight of the organizations.

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  19. It happens all the time that managers avoid hiring smarter people. Not good but somewhat understandable given the Three I outline below, things I think drive this type of behavior and make it part of the fabric of the company so generally a bad idea but sometime unavoidable:
    1) Culture of the company. Is it fast paced, hard driving, innovative, and ambiguous environment. If answer is no then maybe the smart person should be aware of these environmental issues and not seek to be part of such an inherent mismatch,
    2) Who are your customers, do they require cutting edge thinking and innovation which really smart people like to bring to bear,
    3)Standardized assessment tests which are calibrated to what the company thinks is the norm which works best for them, so if you are smarter than the norm these test will pick that up and flag for hiring manager. So there is tremendous pressure on hiring manager to find candidates which best fit the model given to them.

    The candidate can pick up on clues and decide for themselves if this is a good fit or not.

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  20. Anonymous12:43:00 AM

    I agree with this thought process, You need to have people smarter than yourself as it will foster new ideas, creative environment, Ease, Comfort and Energetic environment. Further to this, your own head will start ticking in few extra directions than suggested by individual or team and will help the organisation as a whole. The only care which needs to be taken is: You- who has to create that egoless, fearless and respectful environment. So onus lie on individuals, than the subordinates. Hence, I full believe that, we need to have smarter people whom we hire.....

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  21. Hiring smart people is always advisable ... the pitfall being that the organisation needs to be able to assist and help you manage their ambitions. Loosing smart people because of organisational problems is possibly worse

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  22. Anonymous1:51:00 PM

    Hiring smarter people than yourself is an opportunity for us to grow and improve.It is a threat for us only when we have reached saturation.

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  23. Hiring smart and motivated people, then giving them opportunity to use their talents. It does no good to hire smart people then micromanage them.

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  24. I strongly believe, new thinking and differnt way of working can set in by inducting smart people in the organisation.... absolutely there cannot be second thought . However the challenge lies in their retention

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