All too often I have witnessed ego stand in the way of an organization's achievement of growth. Specifically, I have seen small business owners ignore numerous phenomenal ideas and solutions due to ego.
What is ego?
In the article "What Is the Ego, and Why Is It So Involved in My Life?", Mark Leary Ph.D. states, "So, most terms that include "ego" involve processes or reactions in which I, me, or mine figure prominently. Consider egoism the motive to act in one's self-interest. Someone who is behaving egotistically is simply pursuing [their] own goals, as we all do. A motive is egoistic when it's focused on what "I" want."
As humans, we cannot remove our own self-interest or goals from our consciousness. However, as we lead, manage, or make decisions in business we must be aware of our ego and manage our ego. We must prioritize the needs of the customer/client, as well as the needs of the people of the organization, over our own self-interest.
What are ten signs that a small business owner is leading with ego?
- Not taking accountability. - When a strategy, plan, or project does not reflect the desired results, a small business owner who is driven by ego will often point the finger at external factors. They refuse to evaluate the strategy, plan, or project and take accountability for why the goals or results are not being achieved. They refuse to course correct and make adjustments.
- Blaming employees for subpar results. - When business development, client retention, customer service, employee retention, or other goals are not being met, the employees shoulder the burden and receive the blame when a small business owner is driven by ego. They will not consider that it is the organization's strategy that could be the cause of subpar results.
- Surrounding yourself with smart people, but ignoring their advice. - A smart leader knows to surround themself with smart people. Nobody is omnipotent, and a smart leader surrounds themself with people who are knowledgeable in the things that they are not. If a small business owner surrounds themself with subject matter experts and mentors, but never heeds their advice or, worse, tries to prove them wrong, more than likely the small business owner is driven by ego. Why would you vet a subject matter expert and hire them to only ignore their advice? Most likely it is due to ego.
- Too many secrets. - The small business owner's team members often feel like they have no idea what the owner's vision, strategy, or plan is for the business. They will often get numb to "surprise decisions", and they may feel like the owner makes a lot of "back door deals". When a small business owner has too many secrets, it's often because their ego fears criticism or opposition.
- Customers/clients leave. - When customers/clients don't feel like a priority to a business, they are more inclined to leave. If a small business owner leads with ego, the organization puts the owner front and center, not the customers/clients. The customers/clients feel this, and, inevitably, they will leave and go somewhere where they feel important. When a small business owner operates out of ego, they don't focus on the priority, serving their customers/clients...the very reason why they are in business!
- Refusal to address the pain points. - All organizations can continuously improve. Organizations are comprised of people, and people are inherently flawed. Therefore, there will always be room for improvement. A small business owner who is driven by ego will often view their team members who speak out about improvements as having a negative attitude because their ego sees this as criticism.
- Striving for the upper hand. - Small business owners driven by ego will always be looking to stay ahead of their team members and competitors. They will always strive for the upper hand because their ego wants to avoid criticism.
- Manipulation. - Small business owners who are driven by ego and desire things to go "their way", rather than what is best for the organization or client/customer, will often use manipulation to exercise harmful influence over others. They will exploit, control, or influence others to their own advantage.
- Fixated on achieving goals or winning. - Small business owners that are focused on achieving their own personal goals or winning some self-perceived competition, are operating from ego, and they have forgotten what business ownership is truly about, helping people solve problems.
- Lack of humility. - Small business owners who feel that they are better than or in a different league from others or their team members are driven by ego. Small business owners who exhibit humility teach and realize that there is always something to learn, and they will be fascinated by others' talents and skills and desire to learn from them. Those operating out of ego will show no humility.
To grow a thriving and successful small business, a small business owner must check their ego at the door. Their ego can be the very thing that halts the small business from reaching its true potential and the owner's ultimate vision from becoming a reality.