Managing Your Smartest Employees

Written by
George Dickson
George Dickson

Congratulations! You just hired the smartest person in the room; unfortunately, you're also one of the people in that room.

Here's what you need to know about millennials entering the workforce: they might be smarter than you. Not only did a Pew Research Study last year proclaim millennials as "...the best-educated cohort of young adults in American history," millennials are intimately familiar with modern technology and expect creativity and innovation in the workplace.

Though your employees may be brilliant, you're certainly not dim. Use these tips from an article we recently published on Enterpreneur and manage your smartest employees without looking like an idiot:

1. Be a mentor.

Though they may have an impressive degree from a prestigious university, they don't necessarily have on-the-job training or a well-developed work ethic. That's where your experience and coaching come in.

2. Be respectful and take an active, genuine interest in your employees' work and well-being.

Be careful that your curiosity doesn't come across as micromanagement, and make sure to be generous with praise when credit is due.

3. Build relationships based on trust and confidence.

A recent study by Towers Watson on talent management and rewards showed that trust and confidence in senior leadership is one of the top three reasons that workers decide to remain at a company. Being honest and open to your employees' ideas are two ways to build trust. The more they trust you, the more likely they will be to share ideas, stick around, and help the company grow.

4. Empower employees to take reasonable risks.

Millennials want to be creative and innovative, but both have their risks. Encourage reasonable risk-taking and support your employees if they stumble (and they will). An innovative perspective could be exactly what your company needs to solve long-standing problems.

5. Finally, help employees advance their careers.

Smart employees aren't going to let their careers stagnate; they'll go elsewhere. Keep an eye out for promotion opportunities, and fight for those who deserve them.

You don't have to be the smartest person in the room to be an effective leader. Just keep these tips in mind next time you're feeling blinded by your team's brilliance.

Originally published on February 25, 2015 → Last updated April 1, 2019

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George Dickson

George is dedicated to strengthening organizational cultures with thoughtful leadership and frequent recognition. George formerly managed content and community at Bonusly.


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