December 22, 2014

Here’s a Theory: Hire Someone Smarter Than You

ChildSheldon Cooper is a theoretical physicist who from an early age exhibited an amazing amount of knowledge in physics. He was called a child prodigy and even entered college at the age of eleven. While Sheldon has a frightening amount of knowledge when it comes to science, he cannot tell the difference between sarcasm and seriousness.

Though he is a fictional character on the award-winning television show “The Big Bang Theory,” there is something to be learned from Dr. Cooper: no matter who you are, no matter what you do, there is still someone who knows more about something than you do. That may sound harsh or insensitive, but it is a lesson that needs heeding, especially when it comes to hiring.

“Everyone who reports to me has to be much better at doing his or her job than I could ever be.” – Phil Libin, CEO and cofounder of Evernote

When Phil Libin first began his journey as CEO of Evernote, he was a micromanager. He hired talented individuals to accomplish various tasks, but he still felt he was more qualified for those tasks than the people he hired. Often, managers find themselves in similar situations, delegating projects to others because it is the only way to get things done. Even more often, those managers find themselves going back over what has already been done because it wasn’t finished “properly” or according to their standards. Thus, the micromanager is born.

Micromanaging is a costly habit. Not only does it cost managers and supervisors their time, but it also costs employees their patience and confidence in their own decision-making. This could be one of the main reasons that 75 percent of employees voluntarily leave a position due to the actions of leadership. Libin realized that the employees he didn’t have to micromanage were the ones who knew their jobs better than he did. After hiring individuals who fit that description, he found he could better focus on his own work and learn more from his very own employees.

“At my company, 15Five, a core value is ‘Always be learning and growing,’ and this facilitates curiosity, openness, and humility.” – David Hassell, CEO and founder of 15Five

No matter the department, company, industry, or location, a business is an ever-growing entity. If a business becomes too complacent, it will be left behind by its competitors or supplanted by new businesses that aren’t afraid of change and innovation.

Hiring smarter does not always mean hiring someone with more experience or time in the field. In fact, a recent graduate could bring just as many new ideas to the team as someone who has worked in the field for decades. Hassell’s team makes it a point to always be learning something new, which fosters a greater number of ideas and a greater amount of creativity.

Not only will a constantly learning team grow, but it will also strength the camaraderie between employees. Less jealousy and suspicion will develop when a new expert employee joins the ranks.

“If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.” – David Ogilvy, the “Father of Advertising”

Making it a point to ask yourself what you or your team can learn from a candidate may bring you more success than looking at their skills alone would bring. Hiring the Sheldon Cooper of a subject may leave some managers and supervisors feeling insecure or jealous, but when projects are completed at breakneck speed with great accuracy, everyone wins. Everyone has their place in the company, but some will have talents that go unmatched by anyone else — and who doesn’t want a team of experts calling all the shots?

Read more in Hiring Process

Marissa Litty is the marketing assistant at Red Branch Media, a marketing and advertising firm that serves the Human Resources and Recruiting markets. Red Branch Media has grown from a simple consultancy to a full-service B2B marketing agency. Litty brings experience in event planning, design and advertising and enjoys writing about technology and mobile.
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