Never be the Smartest Person in the Room

| Josh Rossmeisl | Team Articles

“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you”. -BB KING

How often are you asked for your thoughts and opinion on an issue by your boss?  How often are you empowered to explore and solve a problem based on your experience from people that are in “power” positions?  

In a past life, I was part of a culture where the guy at the top was the “smartest guy in the room”.   He would constantly talk about how other places are better, but would never collaborate with us on how to do it.  His practices were rooted in the 90’s and were more reactionary and never strategic.  

He would never ask for people's opinions and when he did, he’d never listen. He’d surround himself with bobble heads who would sit and agree with everything he said.  The smart ones got out.  

He’d rely on hiring the next guy to figure it out.  A fancy resume who talked a good game that never lasted.  I really only learned what not to do from him so I turned to books to gain inspiration from great leaders from across all  industries. The smarter I got, the more I realized that if I was the smartest guy in the room, I’m doomed.  It wasn’t a learning culture.  It was a toxic culture. 

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“Confidence that you know everything will make you an idiot”. -AMP Up1 Culture Values

I committed to creating a culture where learning was part of our habits so the entire team can grow.  I never want to be the smartest guy in the room.  I think a diverse, empowered and psychologically safe team committed to learning is much more powerful than one guy who thinks he has all the answers.  The best ideas come from different backgrounds, especially those who are actually in the arena every day and not a guy (for example) who spends all his time on the golf course.  

This image of those poor sheep who would hang on to every ridiculous word this guy said is burned in my head.  I felt sorry they were stopped from learning in order to fuel a fool's ego.  I really felt bad that he was not self-aware enough to see the smart people cringe when he would suggest ideas that were ridiculous.  

They couldn’t solve issues and relied on putting out fires rather than preventing them. To quote Einstein, “we can’t solve our problems with the same thinking we used when creating them”.  It was a perpetual cycle. 

Confirmation bias is our enemy.  You ward this off by growing yourself by listening to experts who don’t judge you.  Learning needs to be as routine as eating, sleeping and breathing.  Any culture that doesn’t encourage learning is destined for extinction.  

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You are not too busy to learn. You’re too busy because you are not learning.  No one says they are too busy driving to put gas in their car.  Growing yourself should be the same.  

If you are in a great culture, the people at the top will appreciate that you do this for yourself.  They will be proud that you are working hard and becoming smarter than they are and will encourage you to surpass them instead of rewarding you solely for how hard you work.  Your body will inevitably slow down, but your mind will become more powerful as you age.  Learning is a choice and no one can take it from you.  Invest in yourself.  You deserve it and your future self will thank you.

“Commit to learning more about what you do.  When we know better we do better”. -AMP Up1 Culture Values

 

 
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