Years ago, the leader of my CEO group offered a suggested read: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. It’s a great, short read about the struggles many teams face. In my experience, the struggle I see most founders, co-founders and their teams face is in dealing with ego; people wanting credit, people trying to steal credit or attention, lack of confidence, etc. While these issues are inevitable, in the end, this is a problem that can be solved with leadership and a recognition of the issue. For most people, the word “ego” conjures up narcissistic behaviors and larger-than-life personalities, but the truth is: ego can be your friend and the life raft that will pull you through the professional storms that threaten your success as a founder, a team, and a company.
Here’s how you can put your ego to work for you – not against you.
How To Use Ego To Drive You Forward To Success
- 1. Rethink your definition of ego.
Like anything else, ego can be positive or negative. The ego is nothing more than our own internal self-image, our self-esteem. Guess what? Positive self-image and self-esteem are a requirement of success as an entrepreneur. As a leader, it’s also necessary to understand how ego is impacting your team and how to work to build positive ego. Rethink ego and learn how to harness it to drive you towards success.
- 2. Nurture your positive ego.
Aristotle said, “we are what we repeatedly do.” Actively seek out a culture of growth in your life and in your company, consistently learning, exploring and working on your weaknesses. From reading books on leadership, to taking online classes or participating in networking groups or startup incubators – there are unlimited ways to build ego up so that it can be the constructive, comforting, motivating voice in your head – instead of a negative, destructive one. The path from startup to exit can be long and failure-filled. You need resilience to stay motivated for the long haul.
- 3. Let go of what’s not working.
Humans are irrational. We often cling to aspects of our lives and personalities that are not serving us. Stop doing this. There is no single definition of what makes a successful founder or entrepreneur. If you have an idea you are passionate about, you need to believe that you are uniquely suited to bringing that product successfully to market. Get uncomfortable, face the facts on what’s holding you back – and then let those things go.
- 4. Build Trust.
If ego is our own self image we must nurture trust in our self and others. Trust in yourself and actively promote a trusting culture in your team. Make it a priority that your co-workers and team members know that you have their back and ensure co-workers hold each other accountable in a positive way. Consistently do what you say and stay positive.
The ego is not the enemy.
We all have negative voices in our heads. Practicing “Egonomics” combats this negative approach by creating a foundation for original creative thought, inventive resources and the encouragement of people to perpetuate success. It has to be said, you don’t want to overcompensate; a little bit of ego goes a long way, so it’s critical to develop and nurture self-management practices that promote balance and flow, with a continual reflection for advancement, both self-advancement and the advancement of your teams. Just like we have the ability to choose who we work with and who we invest in, we are in control of whether we’re using our ego for good or allowing it to perpetuate a negative self-image that will hold us back from success. I know which I have chosen.
If you’re with me, and you’ve got a product you believe in, reach out.