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When to Leggo Your Ego in Business

The time has never been more critical for business leaders to pay attention to how their egos, defined as a person's sense of self-importance, could be affecting the teams they manage.

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According to a recent Metlife study of Employee Benefit Trends, a third of employees are reporting they hope to work elsewhere by the end of 2014. Furthermore, a recent study conducted by Gallup indicated that 70% of American workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work.

If your company is having retention issues or employees display low job satisfaction, your business’s prosperity could be compromised, and be driven by an unmanaged ego. Sure, there’s a time for a big ego – in front of shareholders or Wall Street. But today’s most effective leaders are those who acknowledge that they don’t have all of the answers and are willing to hear the voices of others, particularly in an increasingly inclusion-needy workforce. The ability to control your ego lays the foundation for executives to listen in and be open to a wide range of input.

Recently, Dolf van den Brink, CEO of Heineken USA, told the New York Times how checking his ego helped him fix culture problems within his workplace:

“It was very clear that some of my behavior was an issue. I called the team in and acknowledged what I heard from them and I apologized, saying that this was not my intent,” van den Brink told the Times’ Adam Bryant.

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Company leaders should follow van den Brink’s lead, and evaluate how their egos are perceived in the workplace. A lack of transactional parity prior to major initiatives or decisions between executives and employees can cause significant decreases in productivity, engagement, innovation and retention, ultimately in business growth and success.

The culture of the new workplace suggests huge advantages if you balance your ego by:

1)    Asking for input regularly

2)    Listening first and then making decisions

3)    Deploying a high level of emotional intelligence

In the past, leaders felt that they were required to always be the “smartest person in the room” – the person with all the answers.  But the most effective leaders of today’s knowledge-based global economy with increasingly participative workers are those who acquire the collective intelligence of the team to make good business decisions.

Shirley Engelmeier is the Founder and CEO of InclusionINC and author of “Inclusion: The New Competitive Business Advantage” (2012) and “Becoming an Inclusive Leader” (2014).  For nearly two decades, she has advised Fortune 500 companies on creating inclusive, high performance leaders and enterprises. Prior to founding InclusionINC, Shirley held senior management positions in global consumer product organizations such as Brown & Williamson and Frito-Lay. She is a leading pioneer around inclusive workplace initiatives that improve business results through higher employee engagement, productivity and innovation.

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