Wednesday, June 17, 2015

3 Traps & Tips for Coaching Egotists

About 70% of leaders have an elevated score or high risk as an Egotist.  Effectively coaching the entrenched Egotist leader takes unique preparation, confidence, and patience.  I have coached hundreds of Egotists since we founded CDR in 1998 and here are few simple suggestions that you may find useful.  

Executive coaches can toss out their normal playbook when taking on the Egotist leader client.   In fact, effectively and productively coaching the ardent Egotist is a steep challenge that many executive coaches are ill prepared to tackle. There are three distinct traps coaches may get caught in while working with the Egotist. These traps can hinder, or even ruin, the coaching relationship and progress.

Trap 1) Despite the fact that good new sells, use sparingly with an Egotist. While developing and leveraging a leader’s best strengths and talent is a pivotal part of the normal executive coaching, focusing predominantly on strong suits or praise with the Egotist executive can be counterproductive.

Trap 2) The inherent nature of the Egotist is to reject negative feedback. Candid criticism and anything less than glowing reviews, is not something that Egotists accept easily. Their sense of being uniquely superior and gifted is naturally at odds with these critiques. The CDR Risk Assessment describes that the Egotist leader:

“is self-centered, has a sense of entitlement, takes credit for others' accomplishments, is viewed as a hard-nosed competitor, has a sense of superiority, and expects to be looked up to.”

So with this trap – the coach needs to listen for quite a long time and build rapport before moving into critical feedback.  Then, the coaches’ feedback needs to be supported with facts and data should be linked to how the negative behaviors are impacting the leader’s own goals and aspirations.  In other words, if you can demonstrate their own behaviors is damaging them personally, you will have better luck in getting their attention.

Trap 3) The lack of essential baseline data collection early in the executive coaching process. When working with limited data, or a 360 instrument alone, executives are provided only the observer’s view, which the Egotist will argue away.

Clever and manipulative Egotists are adept at taking apart the views of others or by putting pressure on those providing the feedback.  Most often, 360 feedback is not enough when coaching the Egotist leader. It is important to have personality characteristics, risk and motivational data to get a clear reading on why behaviors manifest in they ways that they do. Then, along with 360 feedback, there is no wiggle room for the Egotist.  Again, linked to their own goal attainment and the complete data, they will, at last, own it.

Once you avoid the traps here are some important tips to help you in coaching the Egotist leader with successful outcomes:

Tip 1)  Use purposeful questions, based on good data, and really get the Egotist talking in the intake session for at least an hour or so.  Have them talk about their accomplishments, past feedback, their goals and vision for their career advancement.  Then, delve into relationships and how they value direct reports, co-workers, etc.  Look for patterns (positives and egocentric) – the Egotist traits are typically quite clear.  Do not challenge or make comments while you are letting them talk.  Listen, take it in, and give them plenty of rope.  Here are a few questions to ask the Egotist when needing to draw out more specifics:
  •  Describe critical feedback in your past that you strongly disagreed with.  (This is a tough question for an Egotist…  Often, they can think of nothing critical.  Bingo.)
  • Have you ever worked for a manager who lacked key strengths that you thought were important?  How did you handle it?
  • How do you feel your performance stacks up against others (better than most, about the same, worse)?  Why?

Tip 2)  Find out what your Egotist client values most – it is usually their own career and success.  When the timing is right, let them know how their Egotist behaviors (you have observed or that they have relayed to you) are likely to undermine their achievement of those goals.  This is really important to the Egotist – because it is all about them and their personal success.

Tip 3)  Be sure to put on your tough, direct demeanor.  You need to show confidence and strength as an executive coach for the Egotist to respect and value your insights.  Too much compassion and warmth can be mistaken for weakness when dealing with the Egotist.

The Reward

As an executive coach, having a tough Egotist client can be a tall challenge.  With a well thought out and prepared effort, you can really help them and they typically need your help. Having the patience and determination to get past their difficult veneer and lack of humility is daunting at times but doable.  Your reward is:  knowing that you have gotten through to the Egotist to induce a sufficient level of self-awareness to develop actionable plans to improve.

By:  Nancy Parsons
June 17, 2015   

Source: CDR Assessment Group. (Copyrighted 1998).  CDR Drivers & Rewards Assessment Report.  Tulsa, OK:  Author.

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