The company was growing quickly and we needed to bring in a lot of new talent. I was responsible for the first step in qualifying potential candidates. My challenges as I saw them, were being a) the newest person in the company, b) the youngest person in the company and c) a novice to the industry. The prospects coming through our doors were quite impressive and had great credentials. Admittedly, I was a bit intimidated by what their hiring might mean for my own future. I turned to one of my peers in a different division who was about 20 years my senior. I had a lot of respect for her and I shared my concern. Her advice: “Don’t be afraid of hiring someone with more experience than you have.” She assured me that if I could muster the confidence to do that, not only would I never regret it, but I would be more successful because of it.
It takes real self-confidence for some hiring managers to take this step. Leaders can’t let their egos stand in the way of building a really strong team. Much confidence is needed to first hire the best and brightest and then to accept good ideas regardless of who offers them or where they come from in the organization. You have to learn to be OK with not having all the answers and not being fearful of losing respect because of it. Share the heavy lifting. Let those with more experience take some of the pressure off because they have the ability to provide solutions and insights that may be lacking elsewhere in the company.
As the years passed I eventually sat at the head of the conference table gazing across the room at my super smart, highly experienced and successful team. I never forgot that advice and I was grateful for having received it so many years ago. I was thankful that I was secure enough in my own abilities to listen to that advice and to embrace what it meant.
Although I had moments of insecurity during those early years, I tried hard to not let that insecurity shape who I was to become in the business world. I have observed many times along my journey that insecure leaders are not good leaders. Insecurity – in any form and for whatever reason – can cause significant obstacles in the workplace for others. Leaders who are not realistic about their own limitations often try to over-steer to make themselves feel better. A few of the unwanted organizational outcomes caused by leadership insecurity can include sapped energy, heightened cynicism, a reactive culture instead of proactive, and missed opportunities due to low levels of employee engagment. In my case, I could have allowed myself to play gatekeeper and screened out those more experienced than myself to protect my own standing. But then I would not have worked for a company that evolved to unimagined levels of success and allowed me to flourish as it did. I likely would not have ever gazed across the conference table at my super smart and super successful team.
It was that very same advice that again gave me the confidence I needed during this most recent stage of my career; the confidence to start my own business. After all, I had built my career by surrounding myself with very talented and experienced individuals. Experience counts and collective experiences count even more. The recipe seems disarmingly simple… but it starts first with acknowledging our limitations and hiring to overcome them; not to reinforce them.