Why do you keep hiring idiots?

Our team was reflecting on conversations we've held with Senior Leaders over the last few years. We spoke about Leaders who don't appear to trust their people.


We spoke about examples where leaders aren't delegating to to free up their own time to focus on more strategic work. Where they complain about their team members, who are apparently not performing. They are challenged by the number of 'tough conversations' they appear to need to have.


The most common story was that leaders don't talk openly to their people about change because 'they won't understand why we're making the change'.


We pondered if these leaders believe they are much smarter than everyone around them and, therefore, no one can do the job as well as them.


Almost all at once, we all said, "Why do they keep hiring idiots?".


Actually…. that's not true.


What we said to each other was … "why do they think that their people are idiots?".


I often wonder if the promotion to management also includes a pair of glasses that, when looked through you see everyone get instantly stupid, particularly when introducing change. The people who "won't understand" are the same people you trust to deliver for your customer. They are the people you sat next to as a colleague talking about how management just needs to do X and Y to fix the problems. Now you're a manager, and they've instantly become stupid.


I'm reminded of the comment made by Mark Twain.  


"When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years." - Mark Twain


Perhaps it's not that they have gotten stupid. But instead, your perspective has changed.


When you step into a management position, you are introduced to a new way of seeing old problems. You view the business from a more holistic mindset. You may even see performance problems when you didn't before because they affect you in a different way. EG: the person who was the one that just got on with their job, all of a sudden isn't as ambitious as you think they should be. Doesn't work as hard as you do.

They haven't changed. Your perspective has changed.


Previously you were in charge of getting your job done and making sure your customers were satisfied, now as a manager, you are responsible for helping others to get their job done and helping them to satisfy their customers. This is a more difficult thing to do because you can control your own behaviour, but inspiring and helping others to act differently is a more difficult skill set to master. However, many people instead of recognising they need to grow their leadership skills, they instead try to control the work of others. This is an end to nowhere.


What is the solution to this?

  • Option 1 - you can 'get rid' of the people in your team who you think 'don't understand' and recruit new ones that might (or might not) 'get it'.
  • Option 2 - you can review and grow your own leadership skills and help them to understand.

Honestly, option 1 is the easy way out. It's a way of avoiding your part of the problem. I.e.: you hired or at least employ these people. Consider how you have helped them to succeed or to fail.


The most difficult lesson and skill you will ever develop as a leader is the one of self-reflection and self-growth. Note: this is not a lesson in beating yourself up for getting it wrong, it's a lesson in exploring ways and making changes to make it better in the future.


The second hardest lesson is recognising that you aren't the smartest person in the room, and if you truly are… then you need to review your recruitment, promotion and development practices.


If you want your people to understand what you do…


A simple solution - ask them what they need to help them understand/perform and then give it to them.


Listen to your people and what they need. If they don't appear to 'get it' or you don't think they understand the workings of the business as a whole, and you think it would benefit them and the outcomes to understand and 'get it', then spend some time teaching them and provide them with an alternative perspective.


Remember, you haven't hired idiots. People are actually pretty smart and can understand most things relating to changes within a business if you give them the time and information they need to understand. They may surprise you and 'get it' more than you do.


If you are interested in being a leader who is able to get the best from your workforce, please get in touch with SynergyIQ because we are leaders in enabling change and here to help.


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