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Your Weekly Leadership HVA (High Value Activity)

Hello Lifelong Learner ...

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions) to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites #15: Employee self-confidence is a desirable and valuable trait in the workplace, however, when this confidence manifests itself as haughtiness or arrogance — when an employee acts as if he knows more than anyone else, displaying pomposity instead of professionalism, shooting down other people's ideas, grandstanding and/or stealing the spotlight at meetings —team morale can suffer. I refer to this malady as Know-it-All-itis.

At the risk of oversimplifying a complex psychological state, I believe there are generally two reasons for someone to adopt a know-it-all attitude: a) an underlying insecurity with the individual masking the insecurity by becoming strong-willed and officious (while trying to prove he/she is right) or b) a genuine sense of superiority and grandiosity that may come from previous successes, with these successes —and the resulting accolades — validating (at least in this individual's mind) that he/she really does know it all.

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Step: Regardless of the underlying cause, the know-it-all attitude can create a tense environment for you and for your team. Here are a few HVA action steps you can take to address this malady:

  • Face the Problem Head-On (Privately): Let them know their attitude is having a detrimental effect on the working relationships they have with their peers, and a negative effect on their career. Be sure to keep your feedback specific to behaviors/actions/comments you've observed to keep it credible. “Joan, you have some good ideas and very strong opinions and I admire that. However, when you cut off other people in our team meetings and insist that you're right and everyone else is wrong, you're distancing yourself from the team and setting yourself up as a know-it-all.”
  • Push Back on Their Claims (Tactfully): Ask why they believe something to be true, or what sources they're using for the information they're providing to support their viewpoint. Publicly asking questions (in a non-condescending manner) can teach know-it-alls to have their facts in order before speaking out.
  • Put Them in the Driver's Seat: Have a know-it-all moderate a brainstorming session but insist that they focus on keeping the session interactive rather than contributing ideas of their own. This approach can often showcase how much their peers have to contribute and how listening and collaborating may lead to better outcomes.

Even if you currently don't have a Know-it-All on your team, there's a strong likelihood in your management future that you'll run into this situation. Use these course-correction TIPS to help your team function better — together. 

I'd love to hear how this HVA works for you!

Have a brilliant day ... and enjoy the journey!


Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA

RESULTant and Behavioral Engineer


"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." — John Wooden 


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