Ego! “I want to know how to convince them of the truth! (they are wrong)!” the leader told me in our initial coaching session, when I asked him to give me an example of his goals of improved negotiation and partnerships. Alarms sounded in my head. This insistence on being right sounded like an overinflated ego!  Would this client be able to pierce his ego in order to successfully achieve his goals?

“Would you rather be right or in a relationship?” I asked, noting it is one of my favorite coaching questions. Improved, sustainable partnerships including successful negotiations and insistence on being right do not go together! Thankfully my leadership coaching client could see this, laugh, and make a shift over time through our coaching. I will share with you how, so you can use these steps in your organizations.

A strong attachment to being right is a sign of an inflated ego. I call for an International Ego Disarmament Day! An invitation to lay down or pierce our inflated egos, resulting in reduced unproductive workplace conflict (saving your organization, communities, families, even nations, lots of time, money and frustration!). Many spiritual teachings support this concept.

The ancient Greeks used the word “hubris,” that blinding self-pride, tragic flaw, that led to a powerful character’s downfall. “Pride comes before a fall”: Proverbs 16:18. Confucius said: “I don’t worry about not having a good position; I worry about the means I use to gain position. I don’t worry about being unknown; I seek to be known in the right way.”Lao Tzu ,“The well-run group is not a battlefield of egos.” (Was he referring to politics?) Can you and your teammates pierce your own overinflated egos, shifting the focus off of self to the greater cause in order to achieve your vision? My coaching clients include Change Makers who are passionate about their cause and vision, and yet egos can still become inflated!

You will recognize these three signs of an inflated ego: (and can probably add to this list!  I invite you to add other signs as a comment to this article): 

  1. Insistence on being right (sometimes a reaction to uncertainty. We joke about who is right in our family)
  2. Expecting others to make all the adjustments to them and their ideas
  3. Doing most of the talking

How do you “Painlessly” Pierce the Overinflated Ego for greater team success? These three steps pierce egos, reversing the three signs of an inflated ego:

Back to my leadership coaching client who wanted to convince others he was right. Besides (1) sharing my coaching question (“would you rather be right or be in a relationship?”) lightheartedly (thankfully, we both laughed), how was he able to shift his approach for better results?

2. I invited a shift in this Western European Leadership Coaching Client’s perspective to increase cultural intelligence. Knowing he was working in South America,  I asked about the cultural differences. Specifically I asked how direct he thought his communication was and how direct he thought his South American partners were. The awareness of the cultural communication differences proved to be a big step in painlessly piercing his ego (his desire to prove he was “right”) and learning how to adjust his communication style in order to successfully achieve his goals. (even while starting with the belief the other(s) had the inflated egos!)

3. At the conclusion of our coaching engagement, this client shared his additional learnings through our coaching: “Speak less, listen more, try to understand.  View with the eyes of someone else: asking what, how questions (modeled by his coach!). Like game of chess.” This is the opposite of doing most of the talking.

East meets West: In contrast to the challenging question I posed this direct communicating Western client, with an Eastern more indirect communicating client we experienced more of a flow, a sharing of intuition. “Like you are thinking my thoughts,” my Eastern client reported. In this case I adjusted my cultural communication style to achieve successful results.

You are invited to: Apply for a strategy session to discover how Executive Leadership, Team and Mentor Coaching, Coaching Supervision and Retreats with Cultural Intelligence (and ego checks!) will benefit you, your team, organization and stakeholders.

To our success-we are in this together!

Marilyn O’Hearne, MA, MCC Culturally Intelligent Potential Unlocker Leadership, Team and Mentor Coach; Speaker, Author

Published January 23, 2016 and updated