Being the smartest one in the room is not easy.
Really smart people who get to the answer before everyone else get frustrated because:
- No one wants to listen to you.
- No one gets why you are right.
- Everyone seems to WANT to go slower (and it is infuriating).
- You resent having to make the effort of “bringing people along.”
Good guy or bad guy?
I have met and coached many talented and genuinely kind people throughout my career that want to do positive things for the business in an unselfish way — but they get stuck because they are so smart that they piss people off.
If you are one of these people, or you have one of these people working for you – here is the trick:
You can either be Smart, or you can be Effective.
No one can do everything alone. You need other people — either to help or to get out of your way! So if you can’t influence them, you will face roadblocks and fail to get others working on your agenda. You will not be effective.
If you want to be effective, you have to suck it up and bring people along with you, even though it seems like a waste of time.
Keys for smart people to be more effective
Here are some ideas … First, slow down, even though it goes against every grain of your being.
- Include people. don’t just announce the answer, go through the step of setting context and getting input.
- Listen. In meetings, give others time to talk, and listen instead of arguing or shutting them down. You may feel like you are wasting time, but you will win favor by listening. It will pay off later when you need to get their support.
- Don’t be mean. I know you are not trying to be mean on purpose. To you, it doesn’t feel like you are being mean. You are trying to be straightforward, practical, share the answer, and make progress. In fact, one of the things that is so annoying about these people is that they accuse you of being mean when you are not. But they have the right to their perception. What they see may be your dismissing their inputs, ignoring them, or picking fights publicly.
- Say less. Be more gracious. Be more patient. Use more steps in your logic. Get smaller agreements along the way. Say thank you.
- Make an effort to learn what their strengths are. You may be pleasantly surprised. Or not. But if you can get someone talking about what they are good at, and show some appreciation of that, they will be your friend, and you can get their support for your agenda.
- Give them the benefit of the doubt. Keep in mind that these people might be brilliant in ways that you don’t see — in ways that you are not. What if someone in the room is really gifted at networking and connecting and getting others to get on board? Even if they never understand your project, if you can win over that one person they can help you bring all the others along. For example, what if that annoying guy who asks too many questions, and is just not getting the big picture, has a relationship with the CFO that will get your idea funded if you can win him over?
Set your sights on effectiveness
OK, even if you are truly in a room full of stupid people who can’t keep up, you have a choice to make.
Jump to the answer alone and face roadblocks, or, make the effort to bring them along, so you can get the job done. It’s a choice you have.
It may be frustrating in the moment, but the upside is that you will be getting things done – maybe not as fast as you want to go, but better than not at all.
This was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog. Her latest book is Rise: How to be Really Successful at Work and LIKE Your Life.