ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Managers Encouraging the Best

 Years ago my Kung Fu sensei told me "It takes level to see level." It's certainly true and most obvious in something like martial arts. For example, if you are new student - a white belt - all upper belts seem equally powerful and adept. If, on the other hand you are a fourth degree black belt, you can easily see the subtle differences in skill of those whose belts are lower than yours.

Sadly, it takes level to see level in the business world as well. Which, I suppose is why most often managers hire people whose intelligence and abilities are slightly less than their own. It might also be the reason that "tall nails get hammered down."

All too often it is the outstanding member of the department that gets the most negative feedback. "Talks too much," "isn't a team player,"  "a loose cannon," and other pejorative terms. 

We all say we want brilliance and creativity - but all too often we hammer it down. I recall that most of the CEOs I interviewed during my managing for creativity research shared their concerns that it was their managers that were fearful and knocked down any creativity - and creative people.

So, I wonder - is it OK for only a small handful of people to be the brains in the organization with everyone else just following along passively? Can a company flourish that way? Or, do we really do better when most of our people are the best we can find. 

Yes, of course we want "B" players who do the detail and routine work - A players would get bored to easily. BUT, what's the right ratio?

It seems to me that part of the problem is the range of responsibilities we place on managers. These demands might be the primary reason they need to hire people who are less knowledgeable and skilled than they are - after all these managers need to justify their jobs.

It is said that managers need to be able to teach, train, coach, delegate, maintain quality control, oversee and of course hold their people accountable for deliverables. Managers are also in the position of being in the middle of the sandwich - having to fulfill demands from above and maintain relationships and goodwill with those they manage.

It must be scary then to have to manage people much smarter and more creative than you!

Hiring the Best - the A Player
There are many hiring schemas available to management from standardized tests to behavioral questions, to technical skill tests and even to weird questions designed just to find out how a person thinks.

There is dispute as to whether a group of people sitting together should be the hiring team, or whether individual interviews are better. Should the decision be made by many people or should they only have input and one person makes the final decisions?

Too, how can you judge people whose intelligence and skills are much greater than your own? How can you take the risk and hire someone who you fear will show you up and take your job?

And, perhaps you also need to consider what you write in the job description.


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