Surrounded by People Smarter Than Me

When my team is trying to tackle an issue, I want to be the dumbest person in the room.  Why would I want to be surrounded be people dumber than me?  I don’t want to do all the thinking.

Years ago, I made a promise to myself that I would only hire people smarter than the guy in the mirror.  It might be that they know a lot more than me in just one particular area, and that’s ok if it’s what they’ll be working on.  But they need to be smarter than me or they don’t get hired.

Most of my hires have turned out much smarter than me.  That might make some people gasp.  I think it’s a really good thing.  It’s taken a big load off of me.

It hurts bad when I can’t keep really precious people on the team.  When that happens, I pray it’s because of something outside my control and not because of something I’ve done – or not done.

So “surrounding myself with smart people” came up this week as I talked about leadership to a large group of our volunteer leaders.  I was limited on time during that session, so I wanted to explain myself a little more.

Reasons why I try to be the dumbest one in the room:

  1. Because when you’re surrounded by smart people, others will mistake you for being really smart as well.
  2. You leave a discussion feeling more energized instead of feeling frustrated and drained.  There’s only so much Advil that you can take in a day.
  3. You can get cool ideas by seeing what smart people are wearing.  Smart people wear cool and cheap clothes, dumb people wear cool and expensive clothes.  p.s.- beware of flip flops – unless the guy is a student pastor
  4. Smart people have been looking for the answer before the question is even asked.  They’ve felt a “disturbance in the Force” or something.
  5. Someone else on the team will remember to bring really cool snacks to a blue-sky session.  Brain food! btw, my fav is TAKE 5 bars.
  6. You can make fun of smart people to their face and they usually don’t get offended.  They have snappy comebacks.  Dumb people get upset and stop talking – this usually makes the conversation less fun.
  7. Some smart people make me laugh.  I like to laugh.  If I start to cry from laughing, I want to be around that person even more.  My kids are good at that (they’re smarter than me).
  8. Smart people figure out pretty quickly that I don’t have all the answers.  So they immediately try to help me out.  And I need a lot of help sometimes.
  9. Smart people usually weigh their words wisely.  Somebody who thinks that they have all the answers really isn’t smart, they’re just annoying.
  10.  Smart people will usually give off signals that there are dumb people in the room.  Coughing into their fist is a sure sign.  Start looking around when you see this signal.

Random thought – wouldn’t it be cool if people walked into a room with a floating IQ number above their head.  That would make things easier for me.

So, don’t ever be threatened by smarter people working for you – embrace it.  Smart people usually don’t want your job.  They know how much weight comes with the added responsibility.  Your job is to maximize their abilities not suppress them.

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5 Responses to “Surrounded by People Smarter Than Me”

  1. Well stated, and I needed this today. (Was starting to feel dumb compared to the guys I’ve hired)

  2. This is awesome…I might want to have our impact students read this. Awesome insight!

  3. This works well; I have done this since I have had the ability to hire a staff.nTake care of them and they take care of you.

  4. Love this post!

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