Inspire employees to think like entrepreneurs

When we allow the E.G.O. to be present at work, we create an organization filled with internal competition.

When the E.G.O. is present the focus among employees and management becomes: “who is right and who is in control?” This communication dynamic diminishes creativity, collaboration and employee engagement. Because it’s exhausting to “fight-to-be-right,” employees become hopeless that their voice will be heard and decide, “It’s not worth it.”
In time, when results decline, leaders wonder why they are not getting the enthusiasm or results they hoped for and ask, “What went wrong?”
The word enthusiasm comes from the Greek root of ethos and means “God within.” In my new book, “Ignite ‘The Plan’: To Live Your American Dream” I refer to the E.G.O. as “Edging God Out.” This is not a religious act. This is a shift of mindset from being right and in control; to creating an entrepreneurial culture focused on bringing out the wisdom in employees so they can create results.
Let me illustrate with a recent example from a coaching session I conducted with a new president of a large corporation. A leadership assessment revealed he was struggling with listening to others and giving up control. Employees reported that he came to meetings with his mind made up and while he gave others lip service, he ended up doing what he deemed as right and best most of the time. The difficult part for him was that he was an extremely brilliant man and believed it was his intelligence that got him where he was today.
To help him develop his leadership skills, I asked him three questions to consider: 1) Do you think there is any danger in your approach, now that you are a leader?; 2) Do you think you are approaching employees from your E.G.O.: minimizing the contributions of others, and ultimately results?; and 3) Would you consider a new strategy if you believed it would produce results?
He was at first taken back by my direct questions. After thinking for a moment, he answered, “If I’m honest, I would tell you I believe I know the answers better than they do and often fear asking them their opinion, because if it is wrong, I will end up doing it my way anyway. It’s just faster, easier and better to do it myself most of the time.”
I responded by asking him if this felt like a heavy burden to him and caused him stress. He admitted to sleepless nights and being tired of feeling so responsible. He also expressed his sincere desire to motivate his employees so they enjoyed their work. He said he wanted to consider other strategies, if it would help the company thrive. However, he shared his vulnerability admitting he was stuck in this fearful thought: “The board looks to me to create results. It’s my neck on the line, so how do I reconcile that one?”
I asked him to ponder these questions, “How might you create a more enthusiastic and wiser team, so you all shared in the creation of results? How might you help the board to see it was your leadership skills that was the means to this positive outcome?”
As he pondered a bit, I continued, “The highest performing teams develop when leaders teach their employees how to tap into their creative spirit. This begins with fully engaging employees in a creative process that navigates them to solve the needed problems at hand. Eventually they learn these key questions and this creative process and become empowered to find solutions on their own. The result is not only better solutions; there is greater buy-in because the ideas are theirs.
Teach employees to think on their own, and you have a high-performing team.
My client asked how he would know if he was creating an entrepreneurial culture, to which I replied, “You would stop jumping in to tell them what to do. Instead, you would ask open-ended questions that would give them the confidence to listen to their own wisdom and the wisdom of others. That would mean you would have to stop operating from your fear, and begin to trust. Eventually they would know what questions to ask themselves when a problem arises.”
My client listened, considered my words, and said, “I agree. Without engagement and collaboration, you stifle people’s creativity and buy-in. Based on this, I imagine my first step as a new president is to talk with my people and find out what they think we should do, rather than just make the changes I imagined, right?”
Of course, my answer was, “Brilliant! Great idea!”
Challenge: How might you develop an entrepreneurial culture to reach your goals?
Susan K. Wehrley has been a Strategic Empowerment Coach for 24 years, as president of Susan K. Wehrley & Associates Inc. ( ). She is also the founder and CEO of a growth community called, BIZremedies ( ). Her new book “Ignite the Plan” launches May 3 ( She can be reached at or (414) 581-0449.

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Susan K. Wehrley is an executive coach and business consultant that aligns executives and businesses to their vision, values and goals. She is also a regular contributor to Forbes. You can email Susan at, (262) 696-6856 or visit her website for more details.

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