Managing brilliant people who don’t necessarily want to be led and who are smarter than you can be a challenge for the boss of any printing company. But there are ways to do it.
A good start is to recognise what these people want. Generally, they want to be recognised and get on their work. They like complexity, challenges and problem-solving and tend to gravitate to like-minded people. The trick is to appeal to what drives them but at the same time, it is important to recognise that a lot of really smart people are not necessarily that well-equipped with social skills or emotional intelligence. So feedback is important.
It is important to focus on the strengths you possess, rather than the skills or knowledge you lack. Also, do not feel too intimidated and try to hide your ignorance. Ask questions. Try to absorb all that information and read a lot. That means you have to show you are open to learning new things, picking up their insights and ideas.
Remember what you can control. You cannot control whether you are the smartest person in the room, but you can certainly control whether you are the most prepared. Also, imagine the alternative. Think of how it would be to work with less smart people. And finally, take your time getting to know them.
Companies who are most successful at managing their talent integrate their recruiting efforts with areas like training, career-paths, succession planning and mobility programs.
The cleverness of these people is central to their identity so the manager has to work with that. The close association between what they do and who they are also means that clever people often see themselves as not being dependent on others.
The leader must, therefore, start by acknowledging their independence and difference. Their skills are not easily replicated and they know what they’re worth. For a clever person, knowing their worth means that they’re more willing to challenge and question. Clever people are often incessant interrogators of those who hope to lead them. So get used to that. They are not impressed by corporate hierarchy, they expect instant access to leaders and they want to be with other clever people. And finally, they will not thank you, so do not expect it.
This requires print managers who have strong technical and interpersonal skills. It means they have to listen to everyone, treat everyone fairly and equally and stick to their principles.
Organisations seek to increase levels of discipline. They are often under external pressure from the market and the analysts.
But a nasty, brutish environment is fatal for any organisation that aspires to achieve the competitive edge that clever people provide.
Smart printers need to create a delicate balance between giving clever people the freedom they need to experiment and grow, and the necessary discipline that sets them useful boundaries. Only then can their potential be released.
The bottom line is that printers that have people with diverse backgrounds and work styles, and many of them might be smarter than the higher-ups, can often have significant advantages over competitors that do not.
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