So you think you are better than your boss

Climbing the ropes at an Aha! onsite | Photo by Jodi B Photography

February 21, 2024

So you think you are better than your boss

by Brian de Haaff

It was a complex multimillion-dollar deal with a hostile partner whose name you would know. This was many years ago when I was early on in my career. As I watched the general manager of our group negotiate, I caught myself questioning the depth of their skills. Could I have done a better job negotiating? Probably not. But the doubt was there.

If you sometimes wonder whether you are better than your boss — know that you are not alone.

Everyone thinks they are better than their boss at times. And you should be better at some things. Your abilities and ambition are why you were hired. This is part of what we look for when interviewing candidates at Aha! — we seek exceptional people who love to achieve, enjoy supporting their teammates, and want to work from where they are happiest.

I never wonder whether folks on the Aha! team are better than me. That is because I know many of them are. I would not have it any other way.

I work with a lot of people who are skilled in areas where I do not have a lot of experience. I also work with folks who excel at things where I do have experience. I feel fortunate to be surrounded by the most talented group of people I have ever worked with, by far. And I strive to model behaviors and actions that teammates can add to their skill sets so they can keep getting better.

Your boss should also have skills you want to develop. Before you write off your boss as a dud for their perceived lack of expertise, try the following:

Reflect on why

Question your assessment. Is there a reason you have deeper skills? The answer is that the role probably requires it. Organizations need experts in their field — a company of high-level generalists rarely thrives. In all likelihood, you were hired to do one thing well. Rejoice that you are confident in your abilities.

Shine bright

You want to be great. And your boss needs you to be great. Even though you may have different skill sets, you both are aligned in achieving company and team goals. Focus on your responsibilities and what it is that you want to accomplish. Share ways that you could add more value and deliver on it. This is your time to shine — and there is space for you to do so if you give your best effort.

Be curious

Ego can hold you back. But instead of wallowing in resentment, consider this question: “What does my manager know that I do not?” It is possible that they are more skilled than you think. Identify areas where they are the expert. Then, embrace the opportunity to learn from someone who has a different perspective and experience.

Keep learning

No one person has all the answers. If your boss is not able to give you the coaching that you need, look for others in the organization who can. This is not limited to people managers — more senior teammates or subject matter experts can help you grow your abilities too. Develop a mindset to get better at what you do every day. Sign up for training offered by your company or enroll in continuing education classes.

Collective success requires effort from everyone involved. Remember that your success is your boss’s success — and vice versa.

Your manager might not have the same depth of technical understanding or domain expertise as you. But that does not mean they do not have much to offer. Watch how they behave in meetings, how they share updates with the company, how they resolve challenges, and how they make important decisions. View their input as complementary to yours — not oppositional.

Try to enjoy the autonomy that comes with being a trusted contributor. Having a boss who has less knowledge than you in a given area might actually be the path towards doing meaningful work and having an outsize impact.

Grow your career and be happy. Aha! is bootstrapped, profitable, and always hiring for key roles.

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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