3 Tips for Managing People Who Are “Smarter” Than You Are

One of the trickiest parts of being a manager in this tech-savvy age is that sooner or later, you’re probably going to wind up managing people who know more than you do. Best case scenario, you can use your managerial skills to help everyone work more efficiently, protecting and empowering your people to do their best possible work.

Worst-case scenario, you can wind up feeling kind of stupid.

“On my first day as a manager at a software company, I discovered that most of my employees had been doing their jobs for several years — some, for more than 10,” writes Katie Douthwaite at the Daily Muse. “And I, a 24-year-old former cupcake baker and technological spaz, was now assuming the role of their direct supervisor.”

After some surreptitious bathroom sobbing, Douthwaite realized that her management experience was valuable enough to off-set her relative lack of specific knowledge about the inner workings of their product. Better yet, she came up with a few tips to help her fellow managers who find themselves in similar situations. (Full list here.)

1. Don’t try to hide.

If you don’t know the answer, fess up. Don’t brush off the question, make up an answer, or fob off the request on someone else. Take responsibility for finding out.

2. Be prepared to learn.

Take the time to find out what your reports do all day. While you’ll probably never understand their jobs as well as they do, learning about their goals and priorities can help you understand how to manage your employees successfully. It’s also a good relationship-builder: everyone likes to talk about something they do well.

3. Don’t shy away from feedback.

Douthwaite recommends seeking out the most experienced members of the team and asking for their opinions on what works and what doesn’t — now, and in previous versions of the process. The goal here, of course, is not to let people vent without purpose. As satisfying as it might be for your reports to get some complaining in, it won’t help you solve their problems.

“Don’t let these conversations turn into a fruitless rant of complaints — make sure the pain points you discuss actually lead to action steps, and keep your eye on the goal of resolving issues and making processes better,” she advises.

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