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If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room. (Confucius)

Here’s a question: Notwithstanding the fact you simply don’t have time to do everything, why do you hire people? Here’s another one: Have you ever given the first question any meaningful thought?

If you believe you’re the smartest person in every room:

  1. You’re wrong.
  2. You shouldn’t hire anyone.

#1 is true on its face. Consider: (A) You might be the smartest person in some rooms. (B) You might even be the smartest person in most rooms. But if you believe you’re the smartest person in every room, it’s highly likely neither A nor B is true.

#2 is true because, if you believe you’re the smartest person in every room: (A) You won’t (let yourself) hire anyone who’s demonstrably¬†smarter than you are. (B) You won’t hire anyone who’s demonstrably more capable than you are. And because A and B are true, it’s highly likely you’ll make the people you would otherwise have hired miserable.

If you don’t yet believe you’re the smartest person in every room (but you’re tempted to suspect it or to think it), here are a few things you might try to ensure you never convince yourself:

  • Entertain the possibility that anywhere, at any time, you just might cross paths with someone who’s smarter than you are, regardless of how remote that possibility might seem to you. If you do that, even if you have to fake it on occasion, you’ll be fine.
  • Admit there are things at which you’re not best. If you commit to hiring people who are better at doing the things they do than you could ever be, your business will be fine.
  • Make sure the people you hire understand clearly what needs to be done and let them contribute their own ideas as to how it will get done. If you do that, your employees will be fine.

If you think our citing Confucius at the beginning of this post constitutes a straw-man argument, we’ll give you that. After all, Confucius never ran a business or hired people.

By the same token, he never mistook himself for the smartest person in the room.