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Ego Is the Enemy of Smart Hiring
May 22, 2022
Employee Meeting

Are you the smartest person in the room when you assemble your team together? If the answer is yes, you're not succeeding as a leader. 

Before you get outraged by that statement, let me explain. Many leaders pride themselves on their intellect — and that's great. Good leadership requires intelligence. However, do you take pride in being smarter than everyone around you? If you do, you could be intentionally or unintentionally sabotaging your own business. 

When you stand in the midst of your team, you shouldn't feel like the smartest person in the room. Instead, you should be proud that you put together a team of incredibly talented employees that have gifts and skills you don't have.

This is why ego is the enemy of smart hiring. As leaders, we cannot be insecure about our own competencies. The rules of hiring should be:

  • Hire people smarter than you.
  • Learn from the people you hire.
  • Build on the momentum of the interdepartmental "meeting of the minds.”

Many leaders and managers fall back on the crutch of saying that a candidate is "overqualified" for a position when, in reality, they feel intimidated by the candidate's credentials. They're insecure about overseeing someone with vast project experience, like a PhD or some shiny industry accolades. They are afraid that bringing in someone who casts a long professional shadow will expose their own shortcomings.

But being smart enough to assemble a team that's smarter than you is the secret to growing, succeeding, and outperforming the competition. Your competitor without the ego hurdles will gladly scoop up the brains you've brushed aside due to insecurity about your own prowess. It all comes down to learning how to value your leadership as a marked skill that is amplified when you have the best of the best in your downline.

While a rising tide raises all ships, an ego can definitely sink a team. Take a look at the three reasons why ego is the enemy of smart hiring.

1. Your Business Grows Faster When Every Department Is Staffed With Smart Employees

A specific type of dynamism builds when good ideas from smart employees spark off one another. Leaders shouldn't be afraid to take time to recruit the best of the best at every tier. This invites innovation on every level.

Let's start with the 'why' of why you need to hire above your own pay grade from the top. If you'll only bring on people who are below you out of self-preservation, you'll only get results that are as good as your best. This defeats the purpose of hiring a team because you're cutting your potential off at your own best idea.

When you hire without ego, you're able to recruit people who challenge your ideas, redefine limitations, and help you excel past your own blind spots. Competent employees have the courage to "call you out" in ways that docile employees won't. While the ego boost of having a "yes" team can feel satisfying in the moment, it is one of the most common downfalls of leaders. What's the big takeaway about hiring your top-level employees? Staying challenged.

Smart hiring applies to every role and department. When you have the smartest people handling everything from the small details of an operation to your cornerstone projects, there is a level of greatness that sets in. Nobody is getting bottlenecked by minutia because even the people tasked with taking care of low-stakes issues are on the ball. What's more, those people are innovating in real time to make processes more efficient.

Business leaders often fall into the trap of assuming that hiring inexperienced employees for non-integral roles is a good cost-saving measure. However, paying for lack of expertise gets you the benefits of lack of expertise. By contrast, experienced people show up with knowledge that other people don't have. Their knowledge becomes your organization's knowledge.

Understand that you're paying to acquire knowledge instead of to plug in human placeholders. According to human resources researchers at Northwestern University, more than 74 percent of employers admit to hiring the wrong person for a position. Data from the U.S. Department of Labor suggests that a bad hire causes employers to eat 30 percent of the employee's first-year earnings. Anyone who has ever watched a project get torpedoed by inexperienced employees knows that's a very conservative estimate.

2. Hiring the Best to Do Their Best Promotes Independent Teams With Motivation to Excel

Extraordinary things happen when you get a group of high achievers in the same room. It's important for leaders to remember that getting genius minds united under the same goal allows them to feel confident about the final product representing the company. This is where it becomes important to realize that assembling the right collection of people for the project is its own skill and art form.

Are you ready for the secret that every successful leader learns along the way? Your job as leader isn't to manage what everybody does. Your role is to create the right conditions for growth and success by bringing the right people together in the right environment.

People at the top of their game know how to build momentum. That means that they don't know another way to operate other than creating efficient workflows, working around problems, collaborating with other people, and building systems that work. What's more, effective employees become effective leaders capable of identifying and coaching up other top employees. This helps you to build value at scale within your organization.

3. Smart Hiring Encourages a Culture of Creativity and Collaboration

It's all too common for employees to begin prioritizing posturing, blaming, covering up their own mistakes, and protecting their own egos when they feel insecure about their own value. Ego self-preservation from leadership down is insidious.

When you instead hire people who will always be the smartest people in the room, insecurity is replaced by confidence that allows team members to prioritize project results over optics. People who love what they do because they're the best at what they do are able to be fearlessly creative, collaborate openly, and "prop up" others when doing so benefits the organization.

You would never hire a mechanic who knows less than you about cars to work on your car. Why would you want people who know less than you powering your business engine? Ego is a funny thing. The satisfaction we get from feeling like the smartest person in the room ultimately prevents us from being the smartest person in our industry. In a world where talent determines market position, only leaders with the humility to learn from the people they hire will win.

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