I have met many interesting business leaders over the years. The difference between the average and the great was how they saw themselves and the role they thought they had to play within their company. My conclusion: The people who saw themselves as the smartest man (or girl) in the room, who had to control all decision-making in the company, are the ones who achieved the least success and ultimately alienated their colleagues the most. Allow me to explain further so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes.
The Smartest Man in the Room – Meet Bob
Meet Bob, the CEO of the hypothetical ABC Corporation. There is no one in the company’s opinion that he values more than his own. He doesn’t trust his staff to make the tough decisions. He likes to hear himself talk. New ideas are not good until he has come up with them. He likes to micro-manage every decision. He “knows it all”, regardless of the subject, and would never hire someone smarter than himself so as not to look stupid. The company’s revenue just isn’t growing and Bob has no idea why.
The response of Bob .’s employees
Nobody likes working for Bob, they honestly think he’s an asshole. They have given up bringing in new ideas because they are tired of being rejected again and again. Frankly they don’t care about the company, and just keep going with the job, most likely keep their ears open for new job openings as this company has very high employee turnover, low morale and bad culture, which trickled from top to bottom down.
The smartest manager in the room: meet Betty
On the other hand, meet Betty, the CEO of hypothetical XYZ Company. Betty knows the value of knowing when to shut up and listen to the ideas of her staff. She empowers her company’s leaders to make all the important decisions themselves. And frankly, she listens a lot more than she speaks. Which weighs more when she actually speaks. She’s not focused on managing the details of every decision in the business, relying on her team to make those decisions — a team she’s recruited as smarter than herself and experts in their field, far more than herself. The company’s revenues are flourishing.
The reaction of Betty’s employees
Everyone enjoys working for Betty because it is important to them that their ideas are listened to and acted upon. And they love working for the company, alongside a staff of equally happy employees who have built a great camaraderie, culture and team. They wouldn’t think of leaving the company because they enjoy growing their ‘rocket ship’ and love their job.
Be Betty, not Bob
The moral of the story here: be more like Betty, not Bob. If at any point you read Bob’s description above and say, “yeah, that sounds kind of like me and my management style,” then you’ve got a huge problem in your business. . . YOU!! The problem is, most of the “Bobs” in the world don’t even know they’re behaving like this. So what you really need to do is do an outsider survey of your employees and let them tell you exactly what they think of you, your management style and the company. That’s the only way you can learn good lessons so you can improve yourself and the company in the process. And if you read Betty’s description above and say, “yeah, that kinda sounds like me,” keep it up.
Hire smarter than yourself
If you’re hiring talent, leave your ego at the door. If the candidate is smarter than you, that’s a good thing. You want the smartest people to run the business. Don’t be intimidated by them and don’t worry about what your staff will think compared to you. A smart employee will realize that you were the one who found such a great talent, and will give you credit for the hiring. No, think less about you. You need to hire the BEST talent you can find and afford every time. How they relate to you is absolutely irrelevant.
Empower your people
When you micromanage every decision within the company, you are not focused where you should be. A good CEO will hire a strong senior team they trust to make the day-to-day decisions of the company after pointing them in the right direction. And that will free up your time to better focus on more strategic areas of the business, which can propel the business to new heights. And along the way, your employees will love, empower and trust you to do their job, with limited supervision. But that only works if you hire the brightest talent you can find. So don’t be a dime wise and don’t be a pound of fool. Invest in your talent to give the company the best chance of success.
Listen more, speak less
We’ve all been in the room with the “blow hard” CEO who likes to hear himself talk, and speaks for 90% of the available minutes for a meeting. It’s just exhausting as a listener, and everyone just tunes them in, which defeats the purpose of the meeting in the first place. Instead, turn that around – speak 10% of the time. But don’t make all the decisions in the room, ask the probing questions that will get everyone’s creative juices flowing so the best decisions can be made collectively. That is so much more refreshing for both the staff and the business.
As you can see I feel pretty strong on this topic. Partly because I have seen this scenario play out time and again in many companies. And partly because I’ve seen myself mature as a leader the older I got, over time replacing many of my previous “bad habits” with “good habits.” So rethink your management style and hiring approach and good things should happen for you too!!