Is Mr. Smarty Pants Skewing Your Team Alignment?

Experts and high-profile business leaders everywhere are telling employers “Hire people who are smarter than you are.” It makes a lot of sense, smart people are generally good at what they do, they can be an excellent resource, and your informal training ends up being pretty rock star status. However, what are the Joe Schmoes, and the Michael Scotts of the office supposed to do?

It can be intimidating being on a team, or leading a team of smarty-pants. You can end up constantly second-guessing yourself, receding your opinions or input and even losing the confidence or pride that you once felt about your work. Instead of shrinking to the challenge, follow these pointers from team building experts to ensure team alignment throughout your organization.

Focus on where you can excel.

You might not be the most book smart person sitting around that conference table, but you certainly can be the most prepared, the most diligent or the hardest worker. Just remember that a strong intellect is only one of the ways that you can excel in the workplace. While the brains of the group are all resting on their laurels, you’re running circles around them in a bunch of other ways.

(Click here to find out what “resting on your laurels” actually means. Go ahead, there’s no shame, I had to!)

Intelligence is just one of the 15 traits of an ideal employee, as defined by Inc. contributor and CEO of KAS Placement, Ken Sundheim (@Ken_Sundheim). Focus on being action-oriented, ambitious, autonomous, confident, honest, detail-oriented, modest or passionate –pick one and excel the hell out of it.

Embrace it!

The grass is always greener, especially when you’re working in an office full of people who collectively can’t get the wireless printer to work. Take it from Leo Polovets, formally with LinkedIn and Google, which are known for their brainy, Doctor Crane-esque employee line-up.

“I considered the alternative to working with smarter people, and that was even less enticing. In my experience, working with people who are less smart/experienced than you is less educational, less rewarding, and more frustrating than working with those who are smarter/experienced. Working with great peers will help you up your game.”

So embrace the eggheads around you and see this as the great opportunity that it is…just don’t call them eggheads; that might hurt your chances.

Be patient.

Remember that you are your own worst critic, and sometimes your perspective isn’t the most honest or accurate. If you find yourself falling behind the pack, it’s important to consider all perspectives. Perhaps you’re new to the field and don’t have the experience that your peers do. You must remember that they started off somewhere too. Your shortcomings might have nothing to do with your intelligence level, but rather your playing field. Having the proper training, mentorship and feedback can also affect your performance. Be sure that you’re identifying the correct issue, and not just assuming you’re the dodo bird of the office. Stop misinterpreting your lack of experience for stupidity, and give it some time.

Utilize your natural strengths.

Andy Johns, Product Manager at Quara, lends some great advice about how he thrived in an office full of people who were truly smarter than he was. Here is how he turned his time at Facebook into a Cinderella story…

“You will not succeed by trying to play other people’s games. Know what your strengths are and the intersection of your strengths and interests. Then double down on that intersection and make sure that whatever position you hold is aligned with those strengths and interests. What that means is you should demonstrate that you completely own a particular skill or subject matter and are the best at that. Companies need role players. Find a role you can crush and crush it.”

If you don’t know what your natural strengths are, perhaps you should use an employee assessment tool to identify your motivators, needs, desires, stresses, skills and yes, even shortcomings. It is only after you have identified these things that you can use that information to grow and enhance your team alignment.

Take a look at our main blog here.

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