Category Archives: Followership

Managing the Ego in the Workplace

Managing the Ego in the Workplace

My wife Emily and I have recently been going through some old files in our basement, clearing some stuff out and making some much-needed room in an already-crowded basement. And whenever one starts opening boxes from long ago, two things always seem to happen. You find some stuff, and wonder “why did I ever keep that?” And you find some other stuff and say “I am glad I kept that!”

Buried in the corner of our basement, I found a box that was labeled “Olympic Campaign, 1995-2000.” Anyone who knows me well, knows that a major part of my young adult life included a big effort (called a “campaign” in sailing parlance) to qualify for the 2000 US Olympic Sailing Team. My teammates and I accomplished some extraordinary things along the way, but in the end we fell just short, losing in the final race of the Olympic Trials, on June 11, 2000. We lost by about ten feet… yep, ten feet. That was the difference between winning a spot on the 2000 Olympic Sailing Team, and not. So, today, in the corner of my Latimer office sits a trophy that says “2nd place, 2000 US Olympic Sailing Trials.” I am proud of that trophy now. But for a few years after, it was a signifier of pain, not pride.

So, back to the story in the basement…

I opened this box, and found lots of wonderful memories. The sweat-stained hat that I wore for years while racing… My racing gloves, now crisp with dried salt and sweat… Pictures, lots of them… Some cool trophies I had forgotten about… And a notebook. When my original teammates and I started training in 1995, there was a lot we did not know about competition at that level. In particular, I was in way, way over my head. I was completely unqualified to compete at that level. But what I did have in my favor was a control of my ego. I desperately wanted to compete at that level, and I wanted to be good. I knew that in order to make a big performance jump, I was going to have to swallow my pride and make myself open to coaching, input and feedback. So I became a sponge for information, starting with our very first competition in August of 1995, in Kingston, Ontario. I started a notebook on that first trip, and I kept that notebook for the entire six years.

As I sat in my basement the other night, I started thumbing through the notebook, and the memories were so thick I had to almost brush them away like cobwebs around my head. Some of the early entries… Interview with Dave Curtis, world champion… conversation with Jesper Bank, Olympic champion… In those early days, I would walk around the boat park, find the best guys I could, and ask them questions. I had the advantage of being unknown, so they weren’t threatened by me, and were actually quite forthcoming with information. How do you set up your boat? What sails do you use? How tight do you tune your mast? On and on these conversations went.

Eventually, our skills evolved, as did the names of my teammates, and by the end we were legitimate contenders and among the best teams in the world. Great memories.

My point for you today is that there is great power in managing the ego. But it isn’t easy. Many company cultures actually inhibit the free flow of ideas, because people are afraid to admit they don’t know something. So many people are always trying to show how much they already know, even when they don’t know much. And many believe that an admission of not knowing something is professional suicide.

What a shame. What a loss. We all would be so much better off if we allowed ourselves and our colleagues to be vulnerable, and admit weakness or a lack of knowledge. Think about how empowering it would be if you could approach a colleague and say “I don’t know how this works, can you explain it to me?” Some companies have such a culture. Many don’t.

My point to you today is to think not only about the way you conduct yourself in the workplace, and how vulnerable you allow yourself to be. But also think about the company culture that you contribute to. Do you allow others to be vulnerable? Do you allow others to ask questions or admit they don’t know something without repercussion?

If my ego was in the way, I never would have made the jump from the club level of sailing to the Olympic level. I had to manage my ego, and not be afraid of looking bad. This is a key component to skill development, in any endeavor.

Think about it, for yourself, and the company culture you are a part of.

Have a great day.

At The Latimer Group, our individual Coaching and Training services are highly customized and designed to help you achieve your specific goals. Typical engagements focus on developing skill sets in clear and persuasive communication skills. To learn more, e-mail us at

3 (First) Steps to Delivering a More Memorable Message

Do you want to be an effective communicator? Be more memorable? Do you want people to follow your lead, support your idea, or buy your product or service? Of course you do. When I say “be memorable,” I’m not suggesting that you do something outrageous so that they remember that crazy person who did “x.”… Continue Reading

You Can Tell A Person’s Real Character By…

… the way they treat people when they think no one else is looking. … the way they treat people who “don’t matter” to them. People who can’t give them what they want. … the way they treat you when they don’t need anything from you. I apologize for the apparent sermon today. What prompted… Continue Reading

Expand Your World View, and Understand Your Colleagues

My family and I recently returned from a short trip to Mexico. We have visited family there several times with our son over the last six years, and this was the first plane trip for our infant daughter. Traveling with young kids can be a real challenge, no matter how hard you try to organize… Continue Reading

Can You Make it Simpler, Daddy?

I had an interesting conversation with my five-year-old son over the holiday. He asked me to explain something about sailing (which, of course, made his Dad smile). He doesn’t yet know how to sail on his own, but I’ve taken him out many times, and he loves it. He talks about boats all the time,… Continue Reading

What Happens When Politicians Forget to Be Leaders?

Today’s post was written by Whitney Sweeney, Director of Client Relationships at The Latimer Group At The Latimer Group, we teach the importance of leadership communication. To be a leader people will want to follow, you must know how to deliver your message in a way that people will hear and internalize. You must be… Continue Reading

What Is “Leadership Transference?”

Leadership can mean different things at different times to different people.  But a few things are non-negotiable. Not long ago, I read a short essay about Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the concept of “transference” came up. The point of the essay was that during his presidency, Roosevelt was not a healthy nor a strong man. He was in… Continue Reading

No One Leads All the Time: 7 Characteristics of Good Followership

At The Latimer Group, we often say, “No one leads all the time.” Part of being a good teammate – and a good leader – is knowing how to also be a good follower. True, followership isn’t always fun; it’s not always sexy. The credit often goes to the person in the lead. But good… Continue Reading

How to Ask the Hard Questions and Be “Realistically Positive”

So much of the psychology of our business culture is about teams, working together, looking for the “win-win” scenario… and that’s all good. Those are good things to work towards. But can we try hard to create a collaborative environment, and still handle the hard and uncomfortable questions and issues? I hope so, because it’s… Continue Reading

All content © 2016-2017

The Latimer Corporation
350 Center Place
Suite 106
Wallingford, CT 06492
Phone: 203.265.4344