Talking about his new film , ‘To Rome with Love’, Woody Allen said, ‘I’ve got great people, and they make me look good. That’s the thing; you hire Penelope Cruz, Ellen Page, or Alec Baldwin and they’re great. They were great before they met me, they’ll be great after they leave me. And I exploit them. I look like a hero, but you know, that’s the trick.’ In this quote Allen reveals a secret shared by successful managers, directors and leaders – hire really excellent people and then exploit them.
How do you do this? First recruit people who are even smarter than you are. Give them clear goals and then get out of their way. Give them plenty of freedom to develop their own ideas. Work them hard. Give them responsibility. This means that you can do less of the everyday stuff because they will cover it for you. You can then spend more time on high-level strategic and interesting issues. Maintain a light-touch supervision just to check that they are broadly on the right track.
Don’t tell your people what to do. Tell them what the goals are and then ask for their ideas and suggestions. Very often, their best ideas are better than yours. So go with their ideas. Let them implement their own suggestions – they will work twice as hard to prove they were right. Of course you give them the praise and credit for the innovations but it makes you and your department look really good.
So there is the secret. Be selfish. Get really talented people to do all the work for you. Harness their ideas. Make them feel empowered and they will drive your organisation and your career forward. Exploit them ruthlessly! The funny thing is, they will love you for it.
Based on a chapter in Think like an Innovator by Paul Sloane published by Pearson.