There’s Smart – And Then There’s Smart Enough

“You don’t have to know everything – You just need to know where to go and look it up” – I love that quote by Albert Einstein. Those are great words to live by – especially for first time managers, team leaders and supervisors. I wish I would have come across that quote earlier on in my management career. It would have saved me from myself on more than one occasion. What I lacked in competence in those early days I sure made up for in self-confidence. I suffered from a chronic case of  “foot-in-mouth” disease. I figured if I looked like a manager, and talked liked a manager, people would think I was a manager. I was always afraid that someone was going to find out that perhaps I wasn’t as qualified to be a manager as they thought I was.

When I was first promoted to a management position I thought that being a good manager meant that I had to have all the answers. I thought that being a good manager meant that I had to be an  expert at doing everything. After all – isn’t that what good managers do? Wasn’t that why I was promoted to manager in the first place? Thank goodness it didn’t take me too long to realize that – that was the farthest thing from the truth. The fact of the matter is – You don’t have to be the smarted person in the room to be the most successful manager in the room. For most careers – intelligence is highly over-rated. You only need to be smart enough.

You won’t always make the right decisions purely based on what you know – unless you know for certain – that you have all the facts. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve made a decision before I had all the facts and then ended up saying to myself, “Well if I had known that – there’s no way I would have done this”. Hindsight is always 20/20. Successful managers understand that managing is a team sport and they don’t have to take the lead all the time for the team to be successful. Successful managers understand when it’s time to lead and when it’s time to follow. Geese figured that out a long time ago. When the geese fly in formation, the leader does not remain the same. In the course of flight, several in the flock will take turns moving to the front of the formation. As the leader tires, it falls back and takes its place with the other followers, while a new leader emerges at the front of the V.

Be a sponge. Learn all you can from the people around you. Good managers know what they know. And more importantly – they know what they don’t know and they’re not afraid to admit it. Don’t play a game of smoke-n-mirrors. Don’t make up the answers as you go along. You don’t have to have all the answers – but you do have to know who to go to find out. “A specialist is someone who does everything else worse” – Ruggiero Ricci