Good ego. Bad ego.
Understand when to unleash your ego and when to rein it in. It can mean the difference between your success or failure.
We all have egos. Most of the time, they are a force for good – especially in a business environment where individual talent, ambition, and confidence are major factors in a company’s success.
But there are times when an inflated ego can have an adverse, sometimes destructive, effect, especially in a team setting.
An unhindered ego can distort an individual’s perspective. It will look for information that confirms its own narrow opinion. It will reject other viewpoints, even if there are valid arguments being surfaced by fellow team members.
Fundamentally, a big ego can lead to a strong confirmation bias. And if that ego belongs to you, get ready to become known as the team member that is a roadblock, instead of an asset.
That’s not a position you want to get into. You’ll be labeled a naysayer. The person who lacks optimism and enthusiasm. The one that works against the team rather than for it.
And guess what. When the word gets around the office (among your peers and management) your career prospects suddenly take a nosedive. You might even be shown the door at some point if the powers-that-be believe your antagonistic behavior is becoming persistent.
YOU NEED TO TELL YOUR EGO IT’S PART OF A TEAM.
Your ego has helped you get to where you are today. It has been the driving force behind your success. Thank you ego (big pat on the back).
But when you’re in a team setting, you need to suppress your ego for the good of the group. You need to be aligned to what works best for the team.
That is not to say you can’t challenge ideas during the ‘thrashing it out part’ of a project. But once your co-workers find consensus on a direction, you need to park your ego and get on the metaphorical bus.
In other words, you need to learn when to temporarily turn off your ego – and when to turn it back on again.
Here are some tips on how to control it.
- Consciously switch from talker to listener : It’s hard to listen. Especially if you like taking the center stage and letting your mouth run riot. You need to consciously switch the desire to speak up and activate your ears. If you can do this, you can stop your ego from jumping in. Listening is an incredibly important skill to acquire and is a great ego suppressor.
- Don’t judge. Look for positives in other people’s views: Don’t judge the first thing that comes out of a colleague’s mouth. When you give them the time and space to convey their ideas, you give yourself – and your ego – the time and space to absorb them.
- Take on the role of peacemaker : Don’t be the aggressor, the antagonist. Step back for once and try and be the mediator, the go-between. Be helpful. Be positive. And be the bridge. Your ego will hate it, but your team will love it.
- Practice some humility: Stop showing off how good you are and find your inner humility. Act as if you have something to learn. Turn your loudspeaker off and become a sponge. Take in everything and try and review it with an unbiased lens. Humility keeps your ego at bay.
- Replace But with And: When we say ‘But’, we’re saying, ‘That’s a terrible idea, now listen to mine’. Try and replace ‘But’ with ‘And’. Then instead of trashing someone’s idea, you build on it. Make it better. More importantly, you build allies in the meeting. You become a supporter rather than an aggressor. You can still let your ego show off but in a mutually beneficial way.
- Don’t shoot down someone’s idea. Ask a question instead: If you don’t like an idea, don’t shoot it down. Ask a question instead. A question allows the ideator to either strengthen their argument or find themselves finding holes in it. Questions are powerful because, unlike your ego, they don’t have an opinion. They probe without creating friction.
- Bite your tongue: The easiest way to suppress your ego is to bite your tongue. Just keep quiet and let others contribute without your put-downs.
A GOOD LEADER IS THE MASTER OF THEIR OWN EGO
Steve Jobs once famously said, ‘We don’t hire good people and then tell them what to do. We hire good people and let them tell us what to do’.
There is no doubt Steve Jobs had a massive ego. But he also knew how to control his inner compulsions at those vital times. In those moments when collaboration was important, when empowerment was key and when autonomy was a powerful catalyst for innovation.
Ultimately, Steve Jobs, like every successful leader, had the last say on everything. But he knew when to exert his influence and when to hold back.
Another iconic leader, Henry Ford, was a visionary when it came to business culture. Where his contemporaries treated their workforce like paid slaves, Ford understood the power of team spirit, culture, and diversity.
He would routinely hire women, minorities, and disabled individuals (when it was unfashionable to do so). Ford employed over 900 people with disabilities and had over 62 nationalities represented in his workforce. He also made sure his healthcare benefits were available to all, including LGBT individuals. Acceptance of others and emotional intelligence were some of his most powerful leadership qualities. Which is why Ford was a pioneer in team building, a fervent believer in the power of collaboration. He once told one of his senior managers this: ‘Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is a success’.
Henry Ford built a successful business, not just because he was an innovator, but because he knew how to temper his ego. He was always keen to understand other peoples’ point of view – and then turn those ideas into business solutions.
He was one of the biggest business successes in history with one of the smallest egos.