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Ego can be a dirty word

March 27th 2015

Recently in Europe I met with a senior executive who was at pains to advise of his Board member status during our introduction; something I found a little strange as it was common knowledge to all in attendance. I have since learned this behaviour is typical of this executive and now understand it to be repeated across business forums and geographies.

Significantly and far more alarming when meeting a key partner in the Asian region and in the company of their major customer (enjoying a mutually rewarding 10 year relationship) this executive announced in full bravado “I am a Board member and should our partner ever let you down you might contact me personally.” To this the client replied “we have been working with your partner for about 10 years with trust and respect clearly established.” The friction that followed was of great concern to the partner and their client.

So what do we deduce from this ego driven behaviour? There are times when executives are clearly uncomfortable with their lofty status and need to fall back on an element of bravado in order to gain the requisite respect from their stakeholders; OR others just lack the required EQ when dealing with the minutiae of expectations that comes with seniority.

I recall vividly and fondly one of my clients in Australia when pressed by a soon to be hired executive that his wife was not sold on the merits of the career move. We collaborated with regards this sensitive matter and to my amazement this MD traveled several hours to a rural location in Victoria to meet with the executive and wife for lunch. He was genuinely interested in employing this key executive and clearly went out of his way to understand their concerns and hopefully secure the buy-in of this family unit. He succeeded.

Over many years of our partnership this MD consistently exhibited high levels of EQ in a host of settings. He too enjoyed an ego however blended this fine quality with an adequate dose of humility and modesty which enabled him to attract and retain the industry’s finest executives, many of who remain with the organization, over a decade later. His impressive career path continues upwards.

To those readers contemplating a key hire consider this: When choosing the desired skills/experience/qualities do position high on your “wish list” a healthy ego balanced by a high EQ, for this should translate to the building of stronger, more effective relationships, which in turn will result in a far more productive and motivated workforce.

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