CHECK YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR!
5 steps that will positively impact your personal brand, your relationships, and your business
It has been predicted that half
the industry’s workforce will
retire between now and 2036,
leaving 400,000 positions to be filled.
By F. Scott Addis, CPCU, CRA, CRS, ACRA, ASA
It has been predicted that half the industry’s workforce will retire between now and 2036, leaving 400,000 positions to be filled.
Two years ago, Emily retired as the CEO of a dynamic organization that had gained significant market share during her tenure. The firm’s commitment to serve the best interests of its community, associates, and customers had been Emily’s top priority. At Emily’s retirement dinner, she said, “I have been humbled and honored to serve this incredible firm. My father once told me to always check my ego at the door. I made this the mantra of my career. It is you who made this company tick … not me. It is now time for me to sneak out the back door and let Leo take over the reins.” Leo was Emily’s charismatic nephew who appeared to have similar character traits as his aunt.
Leo’s true colors surfaced soon after taking over control of the organization. He put his own leadership team in place, disbanded the quarterly associate huddles, and moved his office to a secluded second-floor location. Left unchecked, Leo’s ego grew into arrogance. He became a control freak who rarely listened to anyone’s suggestions. He always had to have the last say.
Leo was book-smart but lacked emotional intelligence. His associates feared his autocratic style and loathed his egocentric nature. Simply put, his ego was out of control. The once-great company was now losing market share and many of its best people.
Have you ever met someone whose ego was out of control? Did you want to tell this person to “check your ego at the door?” I bet you have. The term refers to the belief that you should consistently check your sense of self-worth before entering into a conversation, situation, or relationship. Checking your ego at the door includes letting go of the need to be in control, to be right, or to be recognized for all that you have accomplished.
People who check their egos at the door are grounded and highly respected. Why? Because they are more interested in what others have to say rather than making themselves the center of attention. When you let go of your ego, you connect with people in a genuine manner. And you help yourself and others grow, learn, evolve, and prosper.
The ego trap
In Psychology Today, Mark Leary, Ph.D., professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and author of The Curse of the Self, defines “ego” as the Latin word for “I.” He clarifies that “egotism” involves the evaluation of oneself more favorably than is objectively warranted. In comparison, “egoism” is acting in one’s self-interest and involves interpreting events from a personal vantage point.
Your ego is influenced by a handful of factors including experiences, beliefs, preference, identities, and biases. Dr. Leary explains that “people differ in the degree to which they can step outside their own perspective to see things from others’ viewpoints, but we’re all locked into our own egocentric viewpoint because there’s no way for us to process information except from our personal frame of reference.”
Having an ego is not necessarily a bad thing. An ego is often a byproduct of one’s accomplishments. It drives action that leads to success. And it breeds self-confidence, poise, and the ability to take risks and capitalize on opportunities.
That being said, an unchecked ego overshadows a person’s humility and willingness to learn, to be challenged, and to trust others. One of the most common ways for an ego to get out of control is when people are placed in positions of authority. As their responsibilities grow, they acquire more power.
“And with that, people are more likely to want to please them by listening more intently, agreeing more, and laughing at their jokes,” state Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter in the Harvard Business Review article “Ego is the Enemy of Good Leadership.” “All of those tickle the ego. And when the ego is tickled, it grows. An inflated ego corrupts behavior. When people believe that they are the sole architects of success, they tend to be ruder, more selfish, and more likely to interrupt others.
“An inflated ego narrows vision. The ego always looks for information that confirms what it wants to believe.”
Tom Matlack, founder of The Good Men Foundation, suggests that there are seven ego traps that catch well intentioned leaders. People with inflated egos:
- Become preoccupied with their own success.
- Think they are smarter than everyone else.
- Create an inner circle that supports their every decision.
- Ignore feedback they do not like.
- Shy away from diverse perspectives and challenging viewpoints.
- Exhibit blindness to their personal flaws.
- Have difficulty recognizing others’ successes.
“People with inflated egos inadvertently get sucked into one or more of these traps that impede their ability to authentically grow and effectively lead,” says Matlack.
Being mentally strong vs. having a big ego
People with big egos are mentally tough. Right? Wrong! People with inflated egos are arrogant, insincere, and sarcastic. They are obsessed with their own self-interests, dominate conversations, and demean others for their inadequacies. And they spend a lot of time worrying about what others think about them.
Their bravado is a coat of armor meant to protect the fact that they have a poor self-image and low self-confidence. They hide behind mistakes and avoid being vulnerable and accountable at all costs.
“Being mentally strong involves a willingness to ask those with more expertise, skills, or resources for assistance,” states Amy Morin, psychotherapist, international bestselling author, and host of the Mentally Stronger podcast. “Mental strength allows you to acknowledge areas where you struggle. When people have mental toughness, they are more concerned with their character rather than their reputation.”
Have you encountered an egomaniac with an inferiority complex? This is a person who is obsessively preoccupied with his or her own feelings of inadequacy. For that reason, they behave aggressively and impulsively to overcompensate for their insecurities. They are control freaks who exhibit delusions of personal greatness to mask inadequacies.
You often find them exaggerating, ridiculing, and fishing for compliments. Although they may appear to be tough on the outside, they are hypersensitive and fragile on the inside.
Five steps to check your ego at the door
Your ability to check your ego at the door will have a profound impact on your career. Although it may not be easy, the following five steps will positively impact your personal brand, relationships, and business:
- Always lead with gratitude. Leading with gratitude is a powerful force as it enables you to communicate your servant leadership qualities through answers to the following three questions:
- What gives meaning to my work?
- What inspires me to act?
- What am I grateful for?
- Gratitude shifts your focus from what you have to what others need.
- Actively listen. As the words suggest, active listening involves fully concentrating on what is being said rather than passively hearing the message from the other person. It is a wonderful skill as it enables others to feel recognized and appreciated. Exceptional active listeners follow the 80/20 rule. They spend 80 percent of their time listening and 20 percent talking.
Is this hard for people with big egos? Yes, but the payoff is huge. After you have actively listened, force yourself to repeat back what you have heard and learned. This helps you stay focused and reinforces your understanding of the other person’s message. Although your ego may feel underserved, you will demonstrate curiosity, respect, and a desire to understand the other person’s world. And it will elevate your credibility leading to trust.
- Ask questions. Even if you are the leader of your firm and/or recognized as an expert in your profession, do not assume that you have all the answers. Ask questions. Make it a habit to go out and learn something new. You gain so much when you understand how others think, act, and feel. This includes colleagues, customers, and strategic partners. When you ask questions and actively listen, it demonstrates how much you value them.
- Solicit feedback from those with differing perspectives. Although you may have done extensive research and have a strong opinion on an issue, you will be wise to solicit feedback from others, especially those with different perspectives. Often, what matters most is the opinions of others—including teammates and customers. When getting feedback, avoid the compulsion to interrupt and do not feel the need to defend your position. Most important, do not get defensive when your view is challenged.
- Honestly evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. When you let your ego go, it is much easier to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. The process of acknowledging your God-given talents as well as areas that need improvement is of the utmost importance. Your perception of yourself may differ from how others view you. For that reason, soliciting feedback from others will enable you to gain an understanding of where you excel and where you would benefit from self-improvement.
Check your ego at the door. You will be pleasantly surprised how you will be welcomed.
Scott Addis is CEO of Beyond Insurance and an industry leader. His agency was recognized by Rough Notes magazine as a Marketing Agency of the Month, he was a Philadelphia finalist for Inc.magazine’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” award, and was selected as one of the “25 Most Innovative Agents in America.”
Beyond Insurance is a consulting firm that offers leadership training, cultural transformation, and talent and tactical development for enlightened professionals who are looking to take their organization to the next level. Since 2007, the proven and repeatable processes of Beyond Insurance have transformed agencies as measured by enhanced organic growth, productivity, profitability, and value in the marketplace.
To learn more about Beyond Insurance, contact Scott at email@example.com.