What comes to mind when you hear the word ego?
Is your first association positive or negative?
The paradoxical truth is that it’s both. Ego can serve as a a major pro or a major con.
Ego can be defined as “a person’s self-esteem, or self-importance”.
On the upside of the ego equation, a healthy ego provides a drive to achieve, the initiative to take charge, and a willingness to make decisions. On the downside, the shadow side of the ego creates control freaks, poor listeners, and insensitive jerks.
Perhaps worst of all, unhealthy egos promote the spread of “CEO Disease”. This illness doesn’t just hit people in the C-Suite; it impacts anyone anyone who refuses to listen to any perspective that contradicts their own opinion.
Sufferers of CEO Disease surround themselves only with “Yes Men”, who tell them exactly what they want to hear. All others get tuned out or thrown out.
Pete is the city manager of a mid-size American city. He was tasked with improving the automobile parking in downtown. Early on in the project, he brought in an external consultant (Rob) to see how feasible the project would be for the city.
Rob has a PhD in parking consulting. He’s also a friend of mine. This is how Rob described his experience working with Pete.
I’ve done feasibility studies like this hundreds of times. I reviewed their project plans: the capital expenditures, the ongoing maintenance costs, the population and demographics of the city.
The more I reviewed the more I thought the proposed project was a bad idea. In fact, it wasn’t bad, it was horrible. There were massive costs with minimal benefits. I couldn’t believe they were considering doing this.
In my summary report, I stopped short of writing in big bold letters THIS IS HORRIBLE! I figured the numbers would create a compelling enough story.
But this is where it got strange. Whenever I talked to staff members of the city administration, they all basically said the same thing: “Pete really wants this thing to happen.”
I realized they were all bowing down to their boss.
Finally, when I explained to Pete that the project was doomed to fail, he looked at me funny. He said, “But I’ve already told the city council we’re doing this.”
It was then I realized that for Pete, his pride and ego were more important than the millions of dollars this would cost the city.
Obviously, Pete’s story is an extreme example, but many of us are guilty of the sin of pride from time to time. Here are three clues to see if pride has gotten the best of you:
- You avoid getting feedback from anyone.
Closing off to feedback is a tell-tale sign. It means that you’re really not interested in what anyone else thinks or might say. Receiving feedback doesn’t mean you have to act on it. Consider: How much does your unwillingness to even hear feedback play into your ego and pride?
2. “Because I said so” becomes your strongest argument for doing something.
There’s a time and place for conviction. But when does conviction become stubbornness? If you find yourself stuck in Stubborn-land, in means you’ve gotten overly attached to your idea of what should be. That idea may or may not have a lot do with reality. Are you willing to check in with what actually is, rather than what you want things to be? (See #1 above.)
3. You’re more focused on what people will think of you then the actual results.
Are you more concerned with optics that output? Do you choose politics over progress? This is the unfortunate norm in too many organizations. If you find yourself starting to bend away from the work, and more towards what you think people might think about your work, do a quick ego check. What servant is serving which master?
What other clues tell you that pride has gotten the best of you? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.