Smartest Man In The Room

Smartest Man In The Room

Are you the smartest man in the room—always? Do people say “wow” every time you say something? Does your team constantly look for your advice and open their mouths wide to receive it while clapping happily like a freakish otter?

It’s good to be the smartest man in the room, but over time your team should become smarter then you (at least in some areas). I was in a meeting this week where the CEO told the team, “Please answer your phone calls and reply to customers on email. I’ve been saying this for a year now. Treat your customers like your girlfriends.” The team gasped and nodded and said “yes” and “oh wow.”

HOLD ON—he’s been saying this for a year? What’s going on here?

A couple things:

  • The team is dependent on the Top for futile things.
  • The Top happens to be the smartest man in the room.
  • Other people aren’t getting smarter. Growth is tough and The Revisitation locks into place.

Create smarter problem-solvers than yourself on your team. Don’t gravitate to the ploy of “People need me to stay on track." It takes time but try an exercise like this:

"The deadline for the IBM project is upcoming, how can we push this project over the top and really solidify a strong relationship with this client?"

Then be quiet. Just let the air clear and permeate with silence. Force your team to learn to converse and come up with ideas.

If no ideas formulate to the surface say, "Ok, no ideas now. I want you all to come back to this whiteboard throughout the day and add two ideas to it. At the end of the day, we'll come back and pick the best one."

Slowly but consistently, you're training your team to come up with smart and brilliant ideas on their own. Over time, this fostering of Speak Up culture will translate into how your team thinks, plans, reacts, and grows.

If you’re always the smartest person in the room, then you might want to reconsider your judgement and your leadership style. You may like being needed now, but over time, being the smartest man in the room is a quick way to obsolescence.

Are you the Smartest man in the room? Don't be. Force other to become better than you. If you happen to be the smartest man in the room, you might want to down a tablespoon of humility and think on this statement, "I can learn something from everyone, and everyone is smarter than me in some way."

Bring out the best in your players and teammates by allowing them to be the smartest man in the room. You be the otter—go ahead, clap for them.


Thanks for reading! This week, we are in Chicago at the 95% Share Marketing conference. We brought over a group of entrepreneurs from Zimbabwe and South Africa, as well as from the USA, to expand minds, cultivate relationships, and have a great time learning how to own 95% of our respective markets.

We were able to spend some time at the famed Merchandise Mart in Chicago, which is startup alley—with a an incubator, accelerator, and co-working space within one building. We'll be sharing a full update with you next week on our time in Chicago.

(photo via trip culinária via saadet)