‘If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room’: getting your team right

Surrounding yourself with smart people can be a transformational and humbling experience, which can challenge, develop, and ultimately help you to spend valuable time on the things you are great at, while knowing others within the team will be great in their areas of strength, says Elena Meskhi

‘I hire people brighter than me and get out of their way.’
Steve Jobs

Let’s face it, everyone is born with and develops some skills better than others. At school, some children have a knack for literature, for some working with numbers comes easily when music and history are more difficult. We all have innate talents, that’s what makes the human race so interesting.  But if you’re the smartest person in your ‘room’ or organisation, how will you ever improve and what will you aspire to? 

Being the smartest person in your organisation can make it very one-dimensional and can breed complacency.  It is easy to surround yourself with people that are less able than you and stay firmly within your comfort zone – but what does it achieve?

Entrepreneurs tend to have certain personality traits that lend themselves to the rollercoaster that is running your own company. They need to have a drive and determination that others do not have. However, if they can step back and look at their business as a whole and acknowledge that other people possess skills and knowledge that they do not, they will be able to grow a company that is more effective, supportive, and successful.

Complementary skills

Most entrepreneurs want to build the best company they possibly can.  But they can’t do it alone.  Yes, it is their dream and creation, but it will be even greater if they can pull together a team of people who complement each other with different talents and skills. Take, for example, an accountancy firm.  The business may have excellent, well qualified accountants, who are masters at numbers and have developed their natural ability in this area. But what are their customer service skills like?  This may not come so naturally to them so it’s important to find a person who is brilliant with people, who has a natural ability for empathy and conversation that will help communicate the numbers from the accountants to the clients. 

Team effort

The leader’s role in the organisation is to create a compelling vision, motivate the team to move in that direction and excite the clients and partners to be the part of it.  It is not to multi-task and perform tasks that others can do. It is impossible to be an expert in all areas of an organisation. But it takes confidence and character to acknowledge that there are people that are better than you at certain things and bring them into your team.  Other people will bring their wealth of knowledge to the business, and the business owner can maximise their insights, skills and experience to help the company grow. Whether this is in accounting, operations, customer service, marketing – the knowledge that each person has expertise in their own area brings a confidence that each part of the business is improving and advancing.

The wonderful thing about working in a room filled with people who are smarter is that this experience is humbling, but also a great avenue for creating a successful enterprise.

Allow your team to be great

The quote ‘a business is only as good as its people’ cannot be more poignant than when business owners think about the team they surround themselves with day to day in the business they have so passionately created.

Some leaders find it hard to delegate because they don’t believe, or are not prepared to acknowledge, that there are things they don’t know or are not good at. It can be intimidating to lead a team who are ‘smarter’ at certain things than you.  But the world does not have to be segregated into ‘smart’ and ‘not smart’ – each person is smart in their own way, even though they may be a goldfish in your land of trees. 

Business owners need to lead by example and show their team they acknowledge their areas of talent.  As soon as leaders can let go of their ego and the need to have all the answers, delegation becomes easy. They no longer need to micromanage the process and can trust their team to do their jobs.

The joy of surrounding yourself with smart people can be a transformational and humbling experience. It can challenge, develop, and ultimately help one to spend valuable time on the things they are great at, while knowing others within the team will be great in their areas of strength.

More motivating than money

Not only is success a great benefit of the business growth strategy, but the excitement felt when a group of people develop and grow an organisation together is inspiring in itself.  It can be much more motivating than the money in the bank.  The business starts to deliver the wellbeing and driving force that results from a collective team effort and will help the company move forward.

So, when you’re considering your next hire, take a moment to think ‘what is the next skill or expertise needed to advance the company’? Then find the smartest and most skilled person in that area, step aside and enjoy watching them do their thing.

Elena Meskhi is a certified accountant and tax adviser and founder of accountancy firm, Elena Meskhi & Co. She is also the author of a new book, Rewire Your Business For Success: the 6 step method to increase profit and reclaim your freedom.

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