Nobody's an expert at EVERYTHING -- business is simply too complex and fast changing! Whether you engage them for an assignment or hire them full time, here's how to effectively manage people with more experience or knowledge than you and make yourself, your team and your company even more successful:
Leading a team full of smart people is important for your personal success. However, it can be intimidating to manage people who have learned and achieved more than you. The key is to take the right approach so everyone pulls in the same direction.
Don't Let Them See You Sweat
It is normal to feel nervous about hiring and managing people who might be smarter or more experienced than you. You can feel the fear, but take care not to let it show. You must project confidence at all times if you want others to feel comfortable with your abilities as a leader. When it comes to confidence, however, you must walk a fine line. If you aren't careful, confidence can come across as arrogance.
Address Issues Swiftly
If you catch buzz that a member of your team is unhappy working for someone with less experience or knowledge, don't let that buzz get out of hand. Even one openly hostile employee can quickly destroy morale, spreading ill will through the group.
Sit down with that employee for an open and honest conversation as soon as you're made aware of the situation. Take care not to be hostile or defensive. Open by saying, "I know that you have X more years of experience than I do, and I understand that you've got some concerns about that." Let the employee know you are there to support them, and find out what they want from you and do your best to provide that support.
Honesty Is the Best Policy
When your reports ask you a question you don't know the answer to, don't avoid the question and by all means, don't lie. Offering poor direction or giving an answer that is just plain wrong can put you in a bad position, it could put the employee in a bad position, and it could lead to loss of respect among your team.
When someone has a question you can't answer, do the same thing you'd want your employees to do in that scenario. Tell them you aren't positive of the answer, but you'll track down the correct answer ASAP -- and then get to work finding it.
Solicit Input, Ideas and Feedback
Employees who have been with the company for a decade or more have been on the front lines of change. They've witnessed the evolution of processes and management, and they have seen what works and what doesn't work for the department and the organization.During one-on-one meetings with your team members, actively solicit feedback and input from experienced employees. When you are faced with a challenge, crowdsource ideas and input from the group, especially those who have been there the longest.
Micromanaging can be tempting, but great managers give their teams the space to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Delegate strategically, assigning tasks that align with each employee's strengths -- then trust them with that responsibility.
You must also remember that you were hired to lead the team. Just because you've got direct reports with more experience does not mean they should run the show. You're still in charge of keeping the ship righted, so give them room to do the job, but don't let them run roughshod over you as a leader.
When In Doubt, Ask for Advice
Hopefully, you have a mentor or close members of your professional network with whom you can share ideas, vent frustrations and celebrate successes. These people are incredibly important on your leadership journey and they can be a terrific sounding board. Don't be afraid to tap this network when you need to. Schedule a weekly breakfast, coffee date or lunch with your mentor(s) to stay connected to your network and receive objective advice when you need it.
Be a Development Advocate
If you hire and manage people who are smarter and more experienced than you are, take an active interest in helping them grow their careers as well. During one-on-one meetings, familiarize yourself with each team member's career goals. Identify people who want to take the next step, and help them map out a plan to get there.Smart leaders hire smart employees. Pull from their experience and use them strategically to set yourself and your team on the path to success.