Why is it so hard to acknowledge someone who’s better than you?

“You’re Never Going To Find Someone Better Than Me!” 

Infatuation and entitlement would want to lead to your ego, telling your boss that they will never find anyone better than you! Some people say that out loud, some think about it.

Based on my professional experience, I can say Finns suffer from the national disease of low self-esteem. So when a Finn meets a person who’s not a typical Finn, they often find that person arrogant and overconfident. Furthermore, like Lissu Moulton put it, “There’s the delusion that another person’s success is a direct reflection of your failures. A friend wins an award for her work. Your first thought: “So she’s officially better than me now? I could win an award like that too if only I weren’t a pile of shit.””

How could anyone ever get promoted without being seen as a total jerk?

Hunt the talent

Hiring talent was found to be the number one concern of CEOs in the most recent Conference Board Annual Survey; it’s also the top concern of the entire executive suite. PwC’s 2017 CEO survey reports that chief executives view the unavailability of talent and skills as the biggest threat to their business. Employers also spend an enormous amount on hiring—an average of $4,129 per job in the United States, according to Society for Human Resource Management estimates, and many times that amount for managerial roles.

Sometimes it’s easier to acknowledge the missing talent or know-how from outsiders than from your team. Thanks to AI and other tools, we’re getting amazingly sophisticated at determining which candidates might have the skills and personality necessary for a great business fit. In a recent episode of the podcast, A Call to Lead with Jennifer Morgan and Stacey Cunningham identified a vital move to make once you’ve got some data on a candidate – compare them to yourself.

I’m intrigued by this kind of opportunity to be able to know more about myself and, at the same time, about my future colleagues. At the same time, I have to say I don’t know anyone who would have recruited and asked recruiting professionals to compare candidates to themselves.

I’d say it requires a special kind of company culture and person to build a truly functional and complementary team. And one that can be based on individual strengths, anchored as a strong team. That kind of group can even switch the leader based on the situational forces needed.

Biases show up more easily the closer you are

Drake Bear suggested in his article If You Want To Get Hired, Act Like Your Potential Boss, already 2014 that you should act like your boss to be promoted. But what if that’s nothing you believe in? What if his/her leadership style is contradicting yours? Is your only possibility of getting promoted to leave the company? Of course, it all depends on the company size and structure, and if I had found the answer to that, I would tell you.

The only advice I can give is to look a bit further. Sometimes your boss’s way of dealing with things comes as a reflection of the top management leadership style. The core question, in my opinion, is whether your values are similar to how they act. Would you enjoy working in such an environment?

If companies are already using large chunks of money for recruiting, why does it seem that they can’t value the existing staff and the competence pool they might already have? It appears that all the fancy tools and effort is targeted towards candidates coming from outside the company instead of using more of the same tools (such as AI and other tools) to get results about the hidden talents in current staff. If such tools can evaluate outside candidates, it should be possible to assess if the internal candidates might have the skills and personality necessary for a great business fit.

It’s easy not to see the people you work with every day as candidates to something different they are currently doing. Cognitive biases will get you when you’re working with your team for a long time. You won’t see the possibilities people could expand to their current responsibilities and how those look.

What about competence management in an organization?

What I can remember are a few conversations about HRIS upgrades or similar projects where negotiation has drifted to competence management. HR department representatives have bluntly stated that competence management is next to impossible. People should be made to keep this data up to date. And they never will.

At that point, I didn’t see the connection. Now I would ask if the person in charge of internal recruitment could use it actively to search for new candidates for open positions? The reality is that there will be people who won’t update their data. There will also be people who will nag about extra work. And people who’d do it in a heartbeat if that would be an excellent way to get closer to the next promotion. Maybe this could be one way of attracting new talents inside the organization.

Always hire someone who can teach you something, not the other way around.

The sociologist Lauren Rivera’s examination of interviews for elite positions, such as those in professional services firms, indicates that hobbies, particularly those associated with the rich, feature prominently as a selection criterion. A bit of the same as if you meet a person with the same nationality on the other side of the world, and you feel instantly somehow connected even if you’ve never seen the person before.

Biases will affect your decisions. That is something you can’t avoid.

What you can do is to try to know yourself well enough, so that you can see what qualities complement your weaknesses and learn to notice those. Try recognizing the person who is most like you as well as pick up the candidate least like you and find their strengths. There can be surprising combos!

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