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The CPXi Blog

L’Eggo Your Ego: Why You Should Hire Smart People


Johanna Pesso, VP of Product at CPXi

Let me start off by saying, as a new manager, I’ve been hired more times than I have hired others.  I’ve spent more times researching companies and crafting all-STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) answers to behavioral questions than I have reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates.  But my experiences as both a hired employee and a hiring manager have taught me one definitive fact that: it is best to hire and cultivate employees who are smarter than you. Don’t let ego, fear and discomfort dictate your hiring decisions because these top-performers will be your greatest assets for personal, team and organizational growth.

With people constantly making lateral moves from company to company, there are more opportunities to hire and be hired.  According to Pew Research, one third of the American workforce is made up of Millennials (born between 1981-1997). One characteristic that has been evident of my generation is our “job-hopping” nature. This means that the need for effective recruitment practices is more important than ever. So leave your ego at the door – here are some reasons why you should hire the smartest employees out there:

  1. They Strengthen the Collective

“None of us is as smart as all of us.”  – Japanese Proverb

Smart employees uniquely add to the creativity and problem solving skills of your team. And the collective is almost always going to exceed the abilities of a single individual. So as a manager, if you are constantly concerned about being the best, you will miss out on the potential that arises from group brainstorming, ultimately limiting your performance and opportunity for further accolades. Many managers (particularly newer leaders who are climbing the ranks for the first time) worry about getting outshined. Finally getting the recognition they deserve for our hard work and dedication, many managers fear they will lose it all at a moment’s notice. For some, managing smarter employees can feel like playing a high-stakes game of Chutes and Ladders. At any moment, someone else can get catapulted up the corporate ladder and send us spiraling back down the ranks.  What we often forget is that we are only as strong as the team we have under us.

  1. The Smarter They Are, The Quicker They Learn

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”  – Jack Welch

Filling your team with smart people who pick things up quickly and proactively ask questions will ultimately increase efficiency and productivity.  The more time you can spend on strategic planning and motivating your employees, the more successful you are going to be as a manager and as a team. With a Director or VP title comes less and less time to do hands-on, day-to-day tasks. While I used to produce go-to-market plans and design sales collateral at an impressive rate, my days are now filled with planning sessions, management updates, and weekly syncs with each of my team members. If my team is going to hit deadlines and exceed expectations, it is not going to be on my hard work alone, because there are just not enough hours in the day. This is why smart people are pivotal to my team’s efficiency – they free me from the details and let me look at the bigger picture.

  1. They Will Go Above & Beyond

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”  – Steve Jobs

When motivated appropriately, smart people are able to identify what needs to get done and are often confident enough to take risks that can produce huge rewards.  As a manager, the best you can hope for is to have this type of person on your teams. Let your intelligent, innovative employees find the opportunities that you can’t. I’ve found that the creativity and out-of-the-box thinking that smart employees bring to the table can elevate any team.

  1. They Will Elevate Your Personal Brand

“Individual commitment to a group effort–that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”  –Vince Lombardi

Managers should be surrounding themselves with people who will take advantage of opportunities and shatter expectations, since it will only elevate their own personal brand. Your employees are the ones actually producing the work that builds your team’s reputation both internally and externally. As managers we need to let the individuals on our teams stretch to their fullest potential. We need to focus our efforts on supporting, training and mentoring our intelligent employees instead of controlling them. This will allow our smart employees to thrive. And when our teams are operating at their maximum potential, we become established as successful managers.

It should go without saying, though, that hiring smart people is only half the battle. The other half includes retaining these employees. Smart workers appreciate support, but they need the freedom to run with ideas on their own. Give them more autonomy than the typical employee, but be sure to also give them feedback. Intelligent, motivated people want to continuously learn and be challenged, so give them actionable feedback if you want to boost their productivity significantly.

But you can’t give your employees effective feedback if you don’t understand their motivations. Take the time to know what inspires each employee. Every person is different, and motivating effectively is as much an art as a science.  As a manager, it is important to identify how your smart employees like to be rewarded (and note that it is often not just money). Smart people often have a drive to advance their careers, and as a manager you should support them in identifying opportunities for growth. Some people are happy with the status quo, but you cannot expect this to be the norm among your smart employees. Be an advocate for your team members, and not only will they work harder, but they will stay longer.

In my experience, employees are a company’s greatest asset. For managers, that’s even more motivation to bring the best employees on board, especially if they’re smarter than you. I can say confidently that my best employees are my smartest employees. Although it can be intimidating and uncomfortable hiring smart people to work underneath you, it’s vital. And if managed effectively, they can elevate and grow your company exponentially.

To read more of what Johanna has to say, visit the bRealTime blog!