In Management, Your Ego is a Performance Killer

Julie Shenkman
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One of the biggest contributors to poor management performance, bad decisions, hiring mistakes, and a whole host of other problems is ego.

Everyone has an ego. It is a natural part of everyone’s psyche and vital for success. The problem occurs when a manager’s ego is given too much control of their behavior, attitudes, and management style.

The ego wants to look good, be right, not make mistakes, not admit failure, manipulate, and control or appear in control at all times. It would be nice if organizations and their strategies, objectives, goals, purpose, mission, and performance were always predictable and operating at peak efficiency and optimum results.

However, in the real world, change is the mantra and norm. Uncertainty prevails. And there are forces at work that would sabotage your ideal world. They include: the government, the weather, unpredictable employees, technology, competitors, customer attitudes and expectations, just to mention a few. If all of these could be harnessed for optimum control, we would never have business failures, lost customers, unhappy and poor-performing employees, disgruntled suppliers, and frustrated accountants.

Ego has cost Corporate America more money than any other single factor. It has resulted in poor decisions, thwarted initiatives, products that have out-lived their life cycle, and acquisitions gone bad. Want more?

· New products that should never have hit the street
· Bad products that were left on the street too long
· Poor hiring decisions
· The decision to terminate a good employee for no other reason than they have an ego, too
· The unwillingness to let go of control of anything
· Keeping decision-making at the top of the corporate ladder
· Unwillingness to delegate difficult or critical tasks
· The desire to look good to the rest of the corporate world, regardless of whether you are making money or not

I believe by now I should have your attention. So why is ego such a big problem in business? After all, Donald Trump has one, and he is successful.

If you were to ask an out-of-control-ego executive or manager if their ego is out of control, guess what you will hear. Believe it or not: No. Why is this? Denial? Arrogance? Insecurity? Or some other psychological or emotional need that has not been or is not being met?

During my career, I have watched clients make acquisitions (against my recommendations) for no other reason than ego. In almost every case, these cost their organization dearly in focus and reputation, not to mention profits. And, ultimately they were shut down or sold off again to some other executive with a big ego, maybe this time to someone who prides him- or herself as a business savior or turn-around master!

Before I lose you, I don’t want you to get the impression that ego is only an issue in the big decisions or choices made at the top. Its impact can be found day-to-day in many of the small and often less significant parts of an enterprise, in the actions and decisions made by mid-level managers and supervisors. I see the results of this every day and everywhere I go in my travels as a speaker and trainer.

As a manager, how do you know if your ego is out of control?

Just pay close attention to a number of critical factors. I guarantee that if you are aware of your circumstances, honest with your self-appraisal, and in touch with reality, it will become crystal clear whether your ego is in control or is running rampant in your organization or department. Some of these factors are:

· consistently poor morale
· constant communication breakdowns
· bad hiring decisions
· consistently poor decisions
· acquisitions or mergers that go sour
· high employee turnover
· consistently poor quality
· outdated policies, products, services, and/or procedures
· loss of market share
· vulnerability to competitors
· poor sales results
· decreasing profits from year to year
· the negative consequences of your decisions

Carefully observe early warning signs for these factors and determine their cause and any relationship between them and your ego, and then respond to them and manage them ego-free and effectively before they become embedded in your corporate culture, employee attitudes, and customer attitudes. You could ask yourself:

1. Can I ever be wrong?
2. Can an employee be smarter than I am?
3. Do I trust my employees?
4. Can I reverse myself after a bad decision or do I die by it?
5. Can I give up control?
6. Do I have pet projects or activities that I can’t let go of?
7. Can I freely give credit where someone else was responsible for the positive outcome?
8. Can I discard old products, services, or ideas that I was responsible for?
9. Can I share the limelight with others?
10. Do I give adequate appreciation and recognition to others?
11. Can I admit failure?
12. Can I admit to not having an answer?
13. Do I procrastinate on simple or important tasks, decisions, or initiatives?

These questions should get you started. Honest answers will help you clearly identify if your ego is a problem in your position.

In his classic book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t, Jim Collins states:

Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed they are incredibly ambitious – but their ambition is first and foremost for their institution and not herself or himself.

If you can rise to the challenge of channeling your ego in this way, be encouraged by the following:

1. Your ego is not part of your DNA or genes. It is man-made and can be un-made or controlled if you choose.
2. It is better to succeed and enjoy your success with a controlled ego than it is to go down in flames with an ego that is out of control.
3. You will never “win them all,” no matter how good you think you are. So get used to losing once in a while, if you aren’t already.
4. Hire a personal coach. What it costs you will be peanuts compared to the time and money you could save your organization. I accept ten new coaching clients every year. If you want to be considered for one of the slots, give me a call.
5. Business is not about winning or looking good, but serving others well.

About the Author

Tim Connor, CSP is an internationally renowned sales, management and leadership speaker, trainer and best selling author. Since 1981 he has given over 3500 presentations in 21 countries on a variety of sales, management, leadership and relationship topics. He is the best selling author of over 60 books including; Soft Sell, That’s Life, Peace Of Mind, 81 Challenges Managers Face and Your First Year In Sales. He is also the CEO of Sales Clubs Of America. He can be reached at, 704-895-1230 or visit his websites at or

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  • a jagan mohan reddy
    a jagan mohan reddy
    This is a very good article and every student of management should read it.Controlling ego is a must otherwise it results in what I would like to call I GO.

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