Leading Talented or Smart People!

Leading Talented or Smart People!

Leading People

It is not unusual that you expect to lead the best of talent. You ensure that your HR personnel work towards finding the most talented bunch of employees to work with you. With a team full of talented people, you can accomplish your expectations, or perhaps, outdo them. However, you must not forget the fact that talented people are a complex set of individuals.

Not only do they think faster than most others, they also indulge in out-of-the-box thinking to find quick and innovative solutions for many a complex problem. However, they are complex in nature and attitude. Here are some of the key points you need to bear in mind while dealing with your smart subordinates.

Provide them with a Sense of Achievement: Since your talented people achieve more, they expect more in return. You need to ensure that they feel a sense of achievement. You must make them feel that they are being valued for their invaluable contributions through proper gestures such as acknowledging their contributions at board meetings, delegating a few responsibilities or giving them a promotion.

Facilitate Decision Making: As a manager, you have an authoritative as well as emotional role in facilitating the pleasure and progress of your subordinates. You are like a father in a family. You need to know, analyze and cater to the emotional leanings of your team members.

At times, you may find your subordinates with better domain knowledge than you have. Accept their areas of strength and help nurture it. As a manager, you have ample opportunity to shine. Allow your subordinates to shine as well with their brilliant performances.

Know their Priorities: Their priorities at times can differ from yours. You need to be empathetic and build trust with them. Do not enforce your decisions on them. Encourage them to openly disagree and come up with their perspectives. Never say, “I know that.” This will discourage them from airing their genuine viewpoints in future. Listen to them, take your time to analyze what they say and put your viewpoint before them objectively.

Never take Credit for their Ideas: People love their ideas to be respected and rewarded. I once had a manager who used to take his subordinates’ ideas and brand them as his own before his superiors. This made him unpopular and untrustworthy with his subordinates. He used to find it problematic to motivate his reports to achieve the project objectives. So, always give credit where it is due. Don’t mess with this important function.

To be effective in getting the best out of your talented team members, you need to go out of narrow hierarchic barriers and create an environment where your performing reports grow with you.

Click here to view Presentation on Multi Cultural Team Management

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  • Very nice article. I agree with each one of your points, especially the one where you facilitate your talented team to make decisions. A manager’s success is going to be all based on how successful his/her team is.

  • Great question, as being in management will result in the necessity of being called upon to lead many types of individuals.

    Managing “smart people” effectively boils down to several things. First, being “smart” sure doesn’t hurt. 🙂 I say it in jest, but, in reality, for a smart rep to respect and work for a leader, they have to see things in them that make them have faith in their leadership. If you don’t have the smarts, fake it with hard work – rolling up your sleeves and diving into the trenches.

    The most important things to realize about managing smart or articulate people who can seemingly build a rapport is that often, their intelligence can be a hindrance. They use it but talk in circles. They can spout a lot of facts, but can’t ever get to the point. If someone cannot show a customer how what they have cures what ails them in the way of needs and weaknesses, they will never sell anything. So, they can have the IQ of a Harvard grad but be the worst seller on the planet. That’s where the leadership of these people comes into play – like any manager-rep dynamic, you must SHOW and SELL them on why their way may not be working, why they should jettison their comfortable ways of failing and do things YOUR WAY. You don’t have to be smarter than your reps, but you have to be “sales street” smarter than they are to get them on your bandwagon.

    All the best!


  • I think a results-based model would work best. Make sure their goals are in alignment with the organization’s vision, mission and strategy, then “lead” them – better yet, let them lead themselves – to their own results.

  • Michael J. Spangle

    am continually impressed with the quality of the questions that you pose on this site.
    This question is particularly challenging for me for the following reasons:
    1) My experience with leading others is extremely limited.
    2) I am very much aware of my ego-centric need to grab and hold the attention of others, garnering as much praise for myself as I can.

    With that in mind I would suggest that the best way to lead a group of talented people is to do the following:
    1) Trust in their abilities. I do not need to have all the answers to every problem. If I did, would I need to hire this team in the first place?
    2) Provide them with the one thing that only I can offer, a focused vision/purpose/direction.
    3) Give them the resources they need to bring that vision/purpose/direction to fruition.
    4) When the customer/boss/etc. offers praise for a project successfully completed, be quick to share the credit for the success and accept full responsibility for any shortcomings.

  • Good question. I’ve been on (& observed) several teams of primadonnas… As a manager managing a group of high performance employees, you would benefit from thinking of yourself as an ENABLER. Here a few thoughts:

    1-Allow them to concentrate on their area of expertise by:
    —A–Getting all the obstacles out of the way: this could be finding resources, getting more funding…
    —B–Shielding them from unnecessary bureaucracy and staff work. (i.e. avoid too much downward delegation). You will be surprised at how much they will love you for this!
    2-Treat each of them as individuals:
    —A–understand what motivates each of them as individuals: recognition, $, time off, education opportunities, speaking engagements…
    —B–and manage to that by being an advocate for your employees: your job is to get them recognized, well paid, etc. (Don’t worry about yourself: you’ll get recognized and well paid as a result…)

    By allowing them to concentrate on what they are good at & thinking of their satisfaction (as you would for a client) you will build a group of very, very loyal employees. (When you have to ask them to go above & beyond they won’t even blink an eye.)

    If your concern is how to you manage and motivate them to work as a team, that is a different question.

  • Doug Groseclose

    In their seminal book Organizing Genius, Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman first debunk the “great man theory” which has unfortunately shaped leadership thought since Frederick of Prussia at least. They then tell the stories of several great groups (Team Disney, the Skunkworks, Bill Clinton’s first campaign) in narrative fashion. The last chapter summarizes the lessons from these great groups, which seem obvious yet are so seldom practiced. All of these were talented people, and this book helps us understand some of the reasons why they were able to achieve the things they did.

  • An attention-grabbing discussion is worth comment. I believe that you need to write more on this matter, it may not be a taboo topic but usually people are not enough to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers