How To Guide Ordinary People To Extraordinary Results

I’m going to assume that you are pretty near a genius. Your colleagues tell me that you are incredibly talented, and that you have insights that awe them. Nearly always, you are three steps ahead of everyone else.

By the way, you are probably going to get fired on Friday.

This makes me sad, for I hate to see talent wasted.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about your talent. I’m talking about the talents of all the people with whom you have been working.

Just on the off chance that you might be listening, let me explain.

Being the smartest person in the room only matters if you use your wisdom to bring out talent in other people. Otherwise, all you are doing is making everyone else feel small and inadequate.

Organizations run on collaboration. They depend on a broad range of people with disparate talents and abilities working together effectively towards specific goals.

If you wait for a team of geniuses before you feel it worth your time to collaborate, you will wait forever. Instead, you need to harness your insights towards solving the really tough challenges in business; these all revolve around the messy, unpredictable, inconsistent nature of human beings.

You need to find ways to get ordinary people to do extraordinary things. If you are so smart, you can figure this out.

You need to respect the way power flows across your organization, through both formal as well as informal channels. You may think Jimmy M is a dolt, but if nothing gets done until he is happy, then you need to ensure Jimmy M is happy.

You need to recognize how different people communicate and process information. Just saying “do this” is seldom enough to get others to do this.

Finally, you need to recognize your own limitations. If you are impatient or insensitive, you need to invest time and effort in polishing these rough edges.

To accomplish anything big, you will need other people. Ordinary people. If you’re so smart, learn this lesson and don’t forget it. If you do it fast enough, you might even keep your job.

One last point… you might be wondering why I wrote this article. It’s because year after year, my clients confess how much they respect the smart guy they are about to fire. After praising his skills, they tell me how he seems utterly unable to grasp the politics inherent in their organization. So year after year, I’ve watched a talented guy get sacked, only to be replaced by a less talented person who can actually get something done.

Smart people have a tendency to think they have a mandate to do a Particular Thing, and that this mandate is a function of their Spectacular Skills. They tend to be self-focused and oblivious to the human side of their organization.

In reality, their job is to get the best out of their team, not to complain about – or ignore – their team.