Reality Check: 3 Steps to Bring Egomaniacs Back to Earth
There are major differences between self-confidence and egomania, often built around the presence of humility. Yet there is a rather large space between the two, where some people that you currently employ or manage might reside.
Let’s look at this in terms of value: those that are confident tend to perceive their value in accordance with reality. In other words, their perception of self-worth to the organization, based on value and productivity, is most likely aligned with your views. Those with unhealthy egos believe that their value is beyond that of reality.
The unhealthy ego represents a significant problem for your business, as these types will often feel they’re underpaid, regardless of what value they bring or revenue they generate, regularly take on more or bigger tasks than they can handle without asking for help and have the unique ability to turn off co-workers and clients.
Related: When Ego Is the Enemy
Whether those that have unhealthy egos can be saved depends on one very important question -- are they coachable?
1. Learn their personality. It’s important that you learn during the interview process if they are coachable, but if you don’t, you need to find out quickly once they’re hired. Pay extremely close attention in the first two weeks and see how they respond to constructive criticism and direction from you.
If they take the suggestions and improve, they are coachable. If they get offended or don’t make adjustments, they’re probably not. If they can’t be coached, you either need to find a position that better fits their true capabilities or make the swift decision to move them out of the company before they do any serious damage.
2. Open their eyes. As a leader, it is your responsibility to understand where employees' heads are and what aspect of their ego is in need of adjustment. It’s you that needs to help shift their understanding of their current value and abilities back into alignment.
There is a way to get that ego back into check within a relatively short period of time -- there must be a shock to their system, and it’s your job to provide that shock. Now, you’re not going to be able to provide a shock such as the one Steve Jobs received when he was thrown out of his own company many years ago -- think his ego was realigned after that? -- but you do need to create a situation and interaction that will open their eyes and mind that they won’t quickly forget.
3. Provide the shock. Let’s use an example: You have a salesperson that demands more money because they feel they deserve it, despite the fact that they’ve been only scraping by from a productivity standpoint. To start, I suggest that you put together a detailed and overwhelming visual report outlining their performance over time in relation to their goals -- graphs will be really helpful. Then schedule a meeting with the individual at least an hour before the office typically opens, but don’t tell them about the meeting until very late in the previous day or provide any details. You must provide the shock.
At the point of meeting, present your information in a direct, forward and honest manner. I’m not at all suggesting that you be overly aggressive in an attempt to make them cry, but that you be firm and to the point with the goal of helping them to understand where they truly are, realigning their reality. When they attempt to defend themselves, which they will, use factual information to help them understand the inadequacies -- facts don’t lie. It might take some time to reel them in, but remain firm. It’s only when their understanding is aligned with reality will you be able to take them to the next level.
It’s critical that you put a plan in place with them moving forward and close the meeting on a positive note. Build them back up and be passionate when you explain that you believe in them and that it’s your new goal in life to help them be as successful as possible -- then live up to your word.
Adam Callinan is a founder at BottleKeeper, the fast-paced and sarcasm-infused solution to the warm beer and broken bottle epidemics that have plagued the world for centuries. Callinan is also a founding partner at Beachwood Ventures, a Los Angeles-based early-stage and non-traditional venture-capital firm at the intersection of technology and entertainment. As an entrepreneur, Callinan has spent over a decade building small businesses in and around technology, medical devices and consumer products, which most recently includes an exit in 2013. Callinan lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife Katie.