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Hire People Smarter Than You

Hire people smarter than you

In a recent Inc article, Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, gave what is probably the best solution to any leader who’s struggling with what is one of the most common problems amongst leaders: Feeling the need to micromanage.

“I made a new rule: Everyone who reports to me has to be much better at doing his or her job than I could ever be.”

My biggest challenge as a business-owner has been letting go of control. Which is funny because being controlled was what I loathed so much about my 9-5 agency job coming out of college. Being told what to do and how to do it by someone else, leaving no room for creativity or suggestion, was the single-biggest motivating factor in my pursuit of starting my own company.

But now that I’m in a position of leadership, I get why it’s such a common struggle. It’s because we all started out being in complete control. For me, I started with running my own one-stop-shop for web design and development. I had my way of doing things and I knew how to be effective on my own.

I started Proof out of the need – and the desire – to build something that was not only sustainable, but scalable. And over the past couple years, I’ve embraced the value and importance of allowing the people around you to do what they do best – and understand that this is one of the keys to successful, long-term growth.

I’ve come to learn that the only way to scale is to let go of the reins and and that the best quality work happens when everyone on your team feels empowered by and in control of the work they do.

Hiring someone to do a job that you can do better will only lead you to either 1) micromanaging and dictating or 2) going insane from taking on too much because you constantly tell yourself that you can do it better.

Phil Libin says his philosophy of hiring people smarter than him in essence makes him the dumbest person at Evernote. Sounds crazy, but maybe in this case, it pays to be dumb.

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  1. Great point. From my experience as an owner/driver of a small and mighty design/branding co. I did just that. While I was not trained in design, I understood and could conceptualize what my client’s needed and think conceptually. My hand in the work was in communicating the project goals and initial ideas generated with client, and then facilitate collaboration with my team (the gift of a small business environment) ensuring each person had a voice and knew their thoughts mattered, and ultimately leading/inspiring the team to create their very best work. I counted on my team to do there best work and they counted on me to do mine! Best working environment ever!!!

  2. Solid, classic advice – however rare to see implemented. Most managers, leaders and even entrepreneurs have a fear of being usurped or undermined, largely due to company culture or their own experiences as an employee.

    Which is really too bad, because it leaves so much innovation on the table.

  3. Matt,

    I agree 100% with this, but I think the challenge is not fooling yourself in thinking that you’re smarter than you actually are. Especially when YOU were the one who created that business/product, who else on Earth could know more than you about it right?