Something peculiar I’ve found is that many of the best entrepreneurs I’ve met lack self-assurance. They might be wondrously creative and brilliant people, but still could use a giant ego boost when it comes to their abilities! I wish everyone possessed confidence and a healthy dose of authentic self-belief.
But every so often a well-meaning entrepreneur errs on the side opposite of humility. He gets a little big for his britches, and needs a bit of a reality check. Egos are a funny thing. Each of us has one – even the most humble among us – but most people are revolted by those with an especially high opinion of themselves. So where do you fall on the spectrum? Here are three ways to tell if your ego is getting in the way of your success.
Every Decision Revolves around You
Okay, so I know this sounds obvious, but I urge you to really give it some thought. When company decisions are being made, do you think about the overall pros and cons as they pertain to the business and others – or mostly how it all will affect you? Here’s an example. When one of your partners approaches you about moving into a new office space, do you first consider the ways this could benefit your company and employees? Or is your initial thought more about how close your current space is to your house and how you don’t want to commute any further? Sure, you can justify this line of reasoning because you want to be close to your office. But the point is to check your motivations and what factors in to your assessments of critical choices.
Making decisions based primarily on your own level of comfort or self-esteem can be really dangerous. For example, you may have designed a website for your business in its earliest stages to save some money. What happens when your business partner brings in a website designer to overhaul the site? Is your ego bruised, because you take this as a personal attack on your design skills? Don’t fear! It’s normal to feel a little insecure when someone else critiques or redoes your work, but try to detach yourself from these emotions. Instead, consider the advantages a new website could offer your business. Once you start framing the changes this way, rather than through a lens of an injured ego, you’ll start making better decisions for everyone involved.
No one wants to think they micromanage their team, and yet many leaders do fall prey to this management style. It doesn’t make you a bad person. In fact, micromanaging often means you care a really great deal about your customers and your brand. Many entrepreneurs start their foray into senior roles by being a “cool boss” and giving employees long leashes, but increasingly scramble to retain more and more control – especially if anything goes awry. But hovering over your employees’ every move is a surefire recipe for resentment and poor retention.
Here’s a secret: none of your employees will live up to your expectations 100% of the time. Once you accept this, you’re one step closer to ridding yourself of micromanaging tendencies. If you don’t think an employee can handle a certain task, delegate just one portion of it to her and see how she performs. It’s great to set clear expectations that can be measured as you go (and upon completion of the project), but sticking your nose in all the time will only communicate that you don’t trust her. No one wants to work for someone who doesn’t trust them. Make your standards clear, and then give your people some leeway. You’ll find out really quickly who’s worth keeping around, and whom you’re better off without, but you won’t damage relationships and productivity along the way.
You Offer Unsolicited Opinions
This might sound similar to micromanaging, but it’s not the same thing. Whereas micromanaging involves your staff, this point refers to an overall attitude toward all people with whom you interact; employees, vendors, clients and peers. It usually stems from a fear of losing control over your business, and is an attempt to make yourself feel needed. Again, the intention is admirable but the result is misguided.
Even if you fancy yourself a jack-of-all-trades, the truth is it’s impossible to excel in multiple areas of business. Even the smartest person simply could not devote enough time, learning or real-life application to more than one or two fields to reach expert status. If expertise is in sales, you should be leading the charge on sales-centered initiatives. If your strength is IT, your sphere of influence should be around all things tech-related. Don’t try to be something you’re not or give opinions that you aren’t qualified to give.
As a founder or leader, you have every right to care about what goes on in your company. But insisting on reviewing every email your customer service representative sends to clients, wading into a billing issue with a vendor or openly disagreeing with a proficient peer in front of a client about something that isn’t your forte will hurt your own reputation – and that of your brand. Stick to what you know, and lead the way in that area alone.
In a position of high leadership within a start-up, it’s natural to be involved in the day-to-day activities as you grow. But the ultimate goal is to get to a point where you’re primarily spending your time on your biggest talents. Review decisions based on how they will affect the business and other people, start giving more autonomy to the people you manage and try your best to only weigh in on matters when you’re invited to do so. If something requires your attention, it’ll eventually get to you. But in the meantime, you’ll maintain a happier workplace, increase productivity and enjoy all the glorious benefits of healthy confidence, not an inflated ego.