How To Manage Someone Smarter Than You

Today’s working population is fairly well educated. According to our job seeker survey, 77% of job seekers have completed at least some college and 43% have a 4-year degree or higher. Depending on your industry, there is the possibility that they may also have a better grasp of technology or specific trades than generations past.

With all this at play, it’s possible that you’ll manage at least a few employees that are, in some respects, smarter than you. This is great for you and your business – as long as you are equipped to manage these employees properly. Here are some tips to help you create a plan of action.

Check Your Ego

This particular aspect of management may not be an issue for you, but some can feel challenged and put on the defense by employees that may know more than they do. No one would blame you for feeling intimidated by that notion, but for the sake of the team, it’ll help to keep in mind that you and your employees have different, complementary skills.

Being a good manager isn’t solely about your personal abilities, but your triumphs as a team (which, in turn, also reflect your successful management). The smarter your employees are, the greater overall gains you can make together. Instead of focusing on the discrepancies in your intellects, know your own strengths as a leader.

There’s a pretty good chance that if you’re the manager, you know a thing or two that your team doesn’t.

Ask Questions

Our CEO Ian Siegel tells a story about a management role he held early in his career:

“I was only 23 years old when I was handed a team of 26 engineers to manage. I had no computer science training and no prior management experience. I was so far in over my head I couldn’t even fake it. My only management strategy was to ask the engineers what they needed each day, and otherwise stay out of their way. A couple of weeks in, I told the team I was sorry I didn’t know how to run an engineering team. They laughed and told me I was the best manager they’d ever had. Apparently, it was because I listened.”

Even though asking questions can feel like you’re revealing your ignorance, it’s the only way to learn what your team needs and how best to give it to them. You don’t have to become an expert at their level, but knowing enough to guide processes and mediate discussions and help them work together is all you really need to be a manager your team trusts.

Give Them What They Need

Once you have a good understanding of what your employees need, let them do their thing. There may be a compulsion to micromanage in an effort to assert your authority, but this can only result in your team developing resentment. Focus on results and leave the process to them. Your job should just be to provide the resources and support they need to thrive and connect their work back to the company’s overall goal.

Don’t Be Shy With Praise

While you might feel your approval is implicit when dealing with someone highly intelligent, everyone likes to be told they’re doing a good job. Your ability to give a compliment shows your confidence. Your team appreciate and trust you. Remember, their triumphs also reflect your skill as a leader.

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Kylie Anderson is an L.A. based writer covering employment trends for the ZipRecruiter Blog.

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