Are You in the Wrong Room?

If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room…

The one thing that I have been able to do over the last 20 years is to learn how to surround myself with people truly smarter than I am.  I know a lot of people talk about this, and a lot of people say that they believe in this concept. However, I think they secretly still think they are the smartest person in the room and that they need to be the smartest person in the room.

The reality is this:  If you can find a way to get rid of that part of your ego temporarily and bring together a group of people who truly are smarter than you in their field of expertise and be able to give up control to them, allowing them to make decisions within your organization, you will lead to great success.

This does not mean that you completely give up your ego.  It also does not mean that you are not a very smart person.  What it does mean is that we can all only have certain areas of expertise.  The secret, however, is to find people who are smarter than you in their area of expertise and then trust and rely on them.  This is especially helpful if those people do not have the same areas of expertise or even the same way of thinking as you. 

You need to search out people who have other areas in which they are really, really good.  Particularly, try and find those who are good in your areas of weakness.  If you’re a big picture thinker but terrible at details (like me), you need to surround yourself with people who are wonderful at details.  If you are a person who is meticulous about details and getting things done, you need to surround yourself with people who aren’t and think outside the box.

The reason we tend not to do this and surround ourselves with people like us, is because it is much more comfortable, in the beginning at least.  People who are opposite of us tend to irritate us just a little bit.  If you’re a big picture thinker and you’ve got someone who’s always saying “Yeah, but what about this detail, and what about that detail?” it starts to annoy you and you tend to not want those people around. Instead, you want people around you who think like you. This is a bad trap and one that leads to poor decision making.  Like it or not, one of the things that makes this country great is the constant debate from all sides.  That is healthy and good.  Obviously, it goes bad when people start debating for their own self-interests but ah, that is the subject of another rant. 

If you are a big picture thinker, the problem with surrounding yourself with people like you is that nobody pays attention to the details and nothing ever gets done. The opposite is also true.  If you have a room full of people who only think about details and you don’t have anyone who is willing to step outside the lines or step outside the box and be a little bit of a rebel, then you have a boring organization that may get things done – but they’re not things worth doing.  Have people who are willing to step on some toes just a little bit, who can step outside the box and do things differently, hell… who can step outside the whole universe and think about things from an outside perspective, who are willing to create, who can share big ideas even if the idea is stupid!

Those are the kind of people that you are going to need.  This is the kind of person you need to become if you don’t have that in your organization.  In addition, it is just as critical that you have people in your organization who are meticulous about dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” – making sure every page of the contract is correct and making sure you’re not missing anything, making sure you are staying within all the regulations…HIIPA, STARC, CLIA, and whatever other organizations that are out there who are constantly stepping on our toes trying to keep us from running a successful business.

There are a few steps to take to diversify your room to create a better organization:

Step One

Look around your organization, and think to yourself, “Am I the kind of person who is always thinking about big things but tends not to follow through? Do I not get things done, tending to leave things in a cluster, then come back two months later saying, ‘Oh crap, there’s that project I started’? or ‘There’s that project I thought about and haven’t done anything about’?” OR, are you the kind of person who is meticulous about everything being done right? The pages are all signed, the cell phone and emails are all being answered correctly, everything is meticulously well done. But the reality is, your organization doesn’t look any different from anyone else’s, and it doesn’t have that spark that it really needs in order to take it to the next level.

Step Two

Look around at the people you surround yourself with.  Look at the other people in the room, if you will. Then, ask yourself, “Which kind of people are they?”  Are they people like you? OR, are they the people that are opposite of you?   My suggestion is that if everyone in the room is just like you, you need some other people in the room.  I have a rule that says, “If there are three of us and we all agree, then one of us is not needed.”  Because there is no reason to have three people that completely agree on everything.  If we do, then why are we here?   We need a diversity of opinions.  We need some different ideas.  We need someone to be willing to step outside the lines, someone who will challenge our ideas, someone who can create a healthy debate on the best strategy for your business.

Step Three

Learn not to be irritated by the debate.  This is not always easy, particularly if you have strong opinions. Learn to enjoy the diversity, put your ego aside, and have the true self-confidence that says, “You know what, I don’t have to be right. I’d rather be rich than right.”   Be willing to listen and see if there’s a different idea… even if that isn’t the way you would do things.

Step Four

Let other people in the organization make decisions after the debate.  You don’t have to be in charge of every single decision.  Let them decide what’s important. Let them do those things without you interfering. A lot of times we start this process by saying, “Well, I let them make the decision.” Then, we go behind them cleaning it up, telling them what they should have decided, or we help them to decide because we think they made the wrong decision. That’s not what I’m talking about.  What I’m talking about is letting them make the decision and getting yourself out of the way!

Following these four steps helps to build a better organization but more importantly helps to build one that is fun to be a part of.

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