Check Your Ego More Than You Do Your New Title

“I can’t wait to get my new ID badge.” When his manager asked why, his reply left her nonplussed: “Because it will have my new title on it.” When she asked why that mattered, he said, “So everyone knows I am a manager now.”

Fast forward three months. He was fired. The power of the title had gone to his head and the subsequent head trip caused them to let him go.

As his manager told me this story I thought of a good friend who was promoted to vice president. He told me how, in a recent meeting, one of his direct reports was trying to make a point. He said, “I totally dismissed what he said as I was the one with the VP after the name.” Did you really say that? “Yes, because I got promoted to vice president and he did not.” That was his reasoning.

What I later found out was that his entire team hated him and could not wait for the eventual fall. It came ambush style. He walked in one day and they let him go. There was almost a wave going through the department. The high fives were visible after the coast became clear.

Ego and title: A dangerous mix

Two instances from two extremes: a new manager, a new executive. Despite the gap, both suffered from the weight of the title. Both suffered from a sense of importance that came with earning that stripe.

Ego and title are a dangerous mix that can become very volatile. The sense of self-importance that increases as the title escalates has the potential of derailing a person’s career, as the above examples show. Not only that, but it can drive a wedge between the employees and the manager. There almost always seems that sense of belief that we promote the smartest and the brightest into our managerial roles.

The role managers play within your organization is a truly strategic position. That is because they are in control of your important asset. For the most part, they manage as they please, even when they run rampant and create havoc within. The problem is that Gallup noted that 70% of the connectedness within your organization is driven by the manager-employee dynamic

Life is a team exercise

It is easy for us to sit back and see the flaws of our peers; we should also take a look within to see where our ego is positioned. The “man in the mirror” concept could have you staring into the abyss. Your direct reports probably could offer a counterpoint to your sense of importance.

In the end, we only become successful through the help of others. Our network – our friends, co-workers, family and neighbors — is one of the most fundamental assets in life. Think that you have accomplished much in your life? Sure, you may have, but a lot was done for you because there is no way anyone could get anything done without the help, cooperation and support of people around them. All of life is a team exercise.

They may have vouched for you in a way to get you that promotion. Someone felt that yes, you could do it. If we do not realize this somewhere along the line, we will falter. Remember that it can’t always be about you

Everyone is just as important as you

A lot of those who go about jumping up and down, complaining, and strutting their self-importance is the result of these people believing they are more important than ANYONE else in the world. We see this when we sit in traffic and watching as those around us start getting upset. They are upset because they think their journey is more important than the person in front of them. Everyone, and everything is just as important as you – no more and no less.

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Ideas can come from anywhere

Always remember that everyone can come up with a great idea, whether it is the big shot title holder or the quietest, most unassuming person on your team. They could be the one that offers the insights or provides the needed direction.

Appreciate everyone

I wrote an article a while ago about Dottie. It’s about a CEO who learned a valuable lesson about the importance of knowing and respecting everyone within the organization. When his professor in graduate school gave his final exam, he had only one question: Do you know the name of the cleaning lady of this building? While the now CEO said he had seen this woman all the time, he did not know her name.The CEO failed the exam.

The professor’s point was to know and appreciate everyone, not just your peers but everyone within the organization

Listening to what goes on around you

Avoid the compulsion to interrupt, defend, or demean anyone giving feedback. It is said that some people only listen for the pause so they can jump in with their comments.. My father was a quiet guy who always told us that you learn a lot when you sit and listen. Listen to people with whom you are supposed to be connecting.

Collaboration means expecting and envisioning greater opportunities, ones that never occurred to you in solitude. Checking your ego means abandoning pursuit of approval, attention, appreciation, and control, and then, channeling your energy to discovering and building the best that is possible.

If you do nothing else, listen and be aware of what is going on around you. Oh, and it is NOT about you. It is about THEM!

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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