PRO-vocative IDEAS from PRO
President's Resource Organization

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These ideas don't come out of an Ivory Tower, but from the real-life experience of entrepreneurs like you. At PRO, Presidents' Resource Organization, the owners of small businesses gather monthly to share problems, and work towards solutions, based on their own lessons learned. PRO members move their companies to the next level through this peer group interfacing.

Here's an example of a PRO-vocative idea and the discussion leading to it:

Dealing with the BIG Ego

Member Concern: 

I have a key employee who is very productive, but sometimes dominates the organization, both his subordinates and his peers. What can I do about this egocentric person so he doesn’t destroy the organization?

PRO Advisory Board Recommendations:

Larry: I’ve had similar problems arise in my company, and I think the first step is to try to understand the origins. This has helped me to build a new working relationship with the problem individual and also has jogged me into more and better mentoring. These situations are usually caused by pressures in the employee’s personal or work life. When we try together to understand and recognize the cause that’s pushed the ego out of control, it’s that much easier to work on controlling or eliminating the action that generates the incorrect behavior.

Sally: I try to have my own behavior harmonize with the behavior of my troubled employee. My objective is to improve communication and to create the opportunity to reshape the offending elements. As one example, I had someone who was grating on everyone’s nerves through boastfulness. My response was to ask publicly for a description of one or two of their accomplishments in more detail.

Jim: I probe. I try to determine what part of the disturbing behavior I can influence, what part of the bragging I can get them to tone down, but I know I have to figure out what is real and what is imagined, both in the concerns of the problem individual and of his colleagues.

Tom: One thing’s for sure: criticism does not work with a person who has a large ego. I believe it is better to calmly and professionally recognize the behavior and discuss it in an open and non-judgmental way.

George: I have had success by reinforcing the behavior I would rather see. This includes rewarding and acknowledging the right behavior. As Tom said, I explain why these actions, the right actions, are satisfying and productive. Most likely, the right actions are sharing credit with others for an accomplishment or a success, rather than hogging the credit.

Linda: I set a limit as to the amount of incorrect behavior we will tolerate. I talk to the offender and tell him or her that a failure to consider the feelings of others that goes beyond acceptable limits will require us to make a change. I put the burden on the guilty party to adapt, and that also includes a situation with a customer or vendor whose personal behavior has gone out of bounds. First you have to talk, then you have to be ready to take action.

Facilitator's Comment:

An ego can be a very beneficial asset. Ego-driven people normally make major contributions to the organization; but if they get out of hand they can become "organizational destroyers." So your first issue is, can you retrain these people to hold their egos in check, and your second issue is to articulate to them what will happen in the event they can’t.

PRO members tell us at meetings that they basically discuss the incorrect behavior with the egotist, and try to help them recognize how to use their ego in positive ways. You must be careful not to accept the incorrect behavior, which reinforces an acceptance in the individual’s mind. You must discuss the incorrect behavior at the time it occurs, if you hope to create a positive change. People generally want to know what is acceptable and what is not, and they have to recognize where the limits are that may cause a change in your organization.

Ask yourself if you have good people leaving your company because of other people who are difficult to work with? Do you have a morale problem because of difficult people? Yes, big ego people can be great, but they can destroy. Be open with them and work for personal change. If this does not work, you must make the organizational change.

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