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Don’t hire smart people and then tell them what to do

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It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.

Steve Jobs

I’ve managed plenty of smart people. And I’ve told many of them what to do.

But, it’s a mistake.

As leaders, it’s our role to set a direction for the team and agree aligned goals with the individuals.

We’re there to coach and support them.

And to develop them into a wonderfully effective version of themselves.

What we often get sucked into is then telling them what to do. As in, not just what they need to achieve (i.e. the outcome we’re seeking from them), but also telling them how to do it.

This might make sense in some instances (e.g. when someone is learning a role or is underperforming and needs temporary enhanced support), but generally we want smart people to contribute all of their smarts in the direction of the goals we agree with them.

This frees them to exercise their good judgement.

And frees us to concentrate on others things, as we leave them to it.

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