Smart and smarter

(Left) Wikimedia Commons (right) Michael Vadon [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Albert Einstein or Donald Trump? You do the math

Rick Cotton, assistant professor at UVic’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, and Tara Landes, president of Vancouver-based management consulting firm Bellrock Benchmarking Inc., offer some tips

DIY 1Illustrations by Victoria Park1. RECOGNIZE YOUR STRENGTHS
“You were hired for a reason, and often that reason has to do with things that your employees can’t do, like strategic planning or strategy execution, perhaps coaching or bringing out the best in the team,” Cotton says. Even if you lack technical knowledge, strength in other areas such as people skills and managing change can provide a halo effect, Landes notes.



Understand how you and your team members contribute to successful strategy execution and sustained competitive advantage, Cotton recommends. “A manager who has a capable or competent person underneath them doing that job should be able to manage them based on the results that are expected,” Landes says. Set clear targets for what employees are supposed to achieve and what outcomes are expected.



“While your employees might have detailed knowledge and expertise, figure out other ways that you can help them, where they want to go and what strengths they can maximize, but also what weaknesses can be brought up to an appropriate level,” Cotton advises. You may be able to coach them in communication, goal setting, time management or influencing skills, for example.



“What is it that they’re trying to get out of doing that work?” Landes asks. For example, some people are motivated by competition, and they want to see how they’re doing relative to their peers. Some enjoy persuading fellow workers to buy into their ideas, while others need to feel part of a team. Understanding employees’ big picture of where they want to go will help you coach them better in the short and the long term, Cotton remarks. Have one-on-one meetings to review achievements, goals and areas that need your attention, he adds.



“If you’re faking it, people will sniff it out a mile away, and especially if you really don’t know what you’re doing, you’re in big trouble,” Landes warns. She advocates saying, “My job here isn’t to do that technical stuff; that’s your job, and you’re going to be very successful at it. My job is to facilitate that.” Learn from employees and alongside them so you build shared expertise, Cotton suggests. “When you don’t know something, leverage what you do know, seek clarification and ask follow-up questions,” he says. “This will build credibility.”