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4 clever tips to manage people smarter than you

27 September, 2016

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Date of Publication: 27 September, 2016
It had to happen. Upper management finally acknowledged your hard work and great contribution to the company goals, and finally moved you one step up the corporate ladder. You have your own team now. They are smart people.

Comes out, they sound more technically competent than you are. More up-to-date. Waiting for your opinion on issues you don’t fully understand.

As we said, it had to happen. The whole world will finally know that you are inappropriate for the role. Or, you could learn what it means to manage people “smarter than you”.


Define “smart”

Quotation marks are there to make a point. Smart is an ambiguous concept. Chances are, either you’re worried about your perceived competence or the people you’re managing simply look more intelligent than you. But the former has little to do with your actual duties. And the latter is pointless, because your job as a team leader is not being the smartest person in the room.


Remember that you are a manager, not a performer

Forget about IQ and technical prowess. Your main task as a leader is to give a direction, moving towards bigger goals.

You are also there to ensure that the members of your team give their best, and to defend their work, whenever questioned by the upper managers who put you there.

Your team needs you as an external decision-maker. Someone who sets priorities and can put an end to procedural debates that dragged on too long. All insights that only you, from a higher perspective, can really provide.


Learn to learn from them

Don’t be afraid to make questions. If your team members are really more skilled than you, pretending that you are on their level won’t last for long. Acting like you don’t care will not take you anywhere, either.

Remember that you need to grow professionally, just as your team does. Show interest in what makes them special. Ask dumb questions. Acknowledge your gaps. In the long run, you could even end up feeling less outsmarted.


Learn how to teach them

As we said, your task is to lead them. And you are there because you have something that they may be still missing. Take a chance to show them what you add to the team by teaching teamwork, people skills, and vision. Could be that some of your smart employees are still living their job on a day-to-day basis: why not open their eyes on broader, career-oriented moves? What about spotting out each team member’s brightest side, and subsequently mentoring them throughout their improvement? This is the kind of value that you alone can add to the team.

Your job is to guide what they do, not how they do it. To be a manager of outstanding people, that’s all you need to be smart at.

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