An ego check is in order if . . .

628 reads

U.S. President Lyndon Johnson was famous for his well-developed ego.  For relaxation, Johnson liked to drive himself around his Texas ranch and vicinity.  One day he was stopped by a Texas patrolman for speeding.  When the patrolman came closer to Johnson's car and saw who was driving, he reportedly exclaimed, "Oh, my God!!"

Looking straight at the patrolman, Johnson replied, "And don't you forget it!"

Unfortunately, many leaders get chapped lips from kissing the mirror too often.  They worship their self-creation too much.

I have a different way of talking about ego in my speeches.  If you think you're indispensable, I tell people, stick your finger in a bowl of water and watch the hole it leaves when you pull it out. 

I'm not saying that all ego is bad.  It isn't.  Everyone should have enough confidence/ego to stand on their own.  It's what defines you and is your spark, your creativity and your individuality.  There's nothing wrong with having drive, passion and excitement.  Those are all good.  But don't confuse ego with arrogance.  Where people get into trouble with ego is when it is misused.

I like to share this reality check with my audiences:  When you put yourself on a pedestal and let your ego get the best of you, just remember that the size of your funeral will depend largely on the weather.

Former pro wrestler turned movie star, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, said:  "Check your ego at the door.  The ego can be the great success inhibitor.  It can kill opportunities, and it can kill success."

Think about those words.  Do any of us have too many opportunities or too much success?  No.  Do any of us have too much ego?  Yes.

There are some telltale signs that your ego is out of control.  For example, do you complain frequently?  Do you need to find fault with things both large and small just to get your fingerprints on a project?  That might be a sign you need to take a step back.

If being judgmental is your hallmark, ask yourself why your ideas are superior to everyone else's.  I'm not referring to the everyday assessments that managers and committees need to perform.  But when snarky is the norm, muzzle yourself.  Arguing and fighting with others doesn't usually provide the desired results.  If you have productive suggestions, make them respectfully.

Make every effort not to be a know-it-all.  Because you can't - know it all, that is.  You can know a lot, or be at expert level, or maybe you even "wrote the book" on a topic.  But it's usually more effective to let someone else brag you up.  You achieve better credibility when others toot your horn.

When the shoe is on the other foot, how does your ego show itself? Being defensive when you are criticized is unprofessional and immature. Instead of blaming others, learn to listen and see how much they have to contribute. Give your co-workers or subordinates a chance to shine to prove that your ego is not in the way of success. 

Holding grudges won't get you anywhere either.  If you plan to keep working with the same people, you really have to work at working with them.  Get over yourself!  I can tell you from my own experience - sooner or later - you will need their help.  If you have burned your bridges, your ego will have a pretty tough time trying to swim against the current.

Once you figure out that you may have been wrong or overstepped a boundary, be willing to apologize.  A little humility is always welcome, as long as it's sincere.  Admit your mistakes and offer whatever help or support you can.

  • Let's put this in a nutshell.  If you want to overcome your ego, you need to learn to let go:
  • Let go of being offended at every little thing.
  • Let go of the need to win and be right all the time.
  • Let go of the need to be superior.
  • Let go of identifying yourself by your achievements and reputation.

There are also a few things to keep: 

  • Keep your temper in check.
  • Keep your sense of humor.
  • Keep your tone respectful.
  • Keep your mind and your ears open.

A man once told Buddha, "I want happiness."

Buddha replied:  "First remove 'I'; that's ego.  Then remove 'want'; that's desire.  And now all you're left with is happiness."

Mackay's Moral:  Get over yourself before you trip over yourself.


misner's picture

Dude, Where are my Wheels? Why Networking Helps – Even in the “Hood”

I recently visited Los Angeles and drove through an area that I grew up around.  I was regaling my wife with a story about a job I had in a pretty tough neighborhood when I was in college.  At the end of the story she said, “you have to
Harvey Mackay's picture

Resourcefulness = “Of Coursefulness”

A firm needed a researcher. Applicants were a scientist, an engineer and an economist. Each was given a stone, a piece of string and a stopwatch and told to determine a certain building’s height. The scientist went to the rooftop, tied the stone to
johnsullivan's picture

Sourcing Is the New Recruiting

I have some excellent news for you. Sourcing is the place to be in talent acquisition today! Recruiting as it has traditionally been known is going away. Increasingly companies are adopting recruitment process automation, and that means that there
harvardbusinessreview's picture

How to Prepare for a Panel

Make sure to connect with the moderator beforehand.
johnsullivan's picture

HR Roundtable: The Value of a Multi-Generational Workforce

In the classic rock anthem My Generation by The Who, lead singer Roger Daltrey screams, “I hope I die before I get old.” He echoed a sentiment of the times, but he never knew that he was also doing what...
adamgrant's picture

Why Women Volunteer for Tasks That Don’t Lead to Promotions

Here’s a work scenario many of us know too well: You are in a meeting and your manager brings up a project that needs to be assigned. It’s not particularly challenging work, but it’s time-consuming, unlikely to drive revenue, and probably won’t be
johnsullivan's picture

How Personas Change Sourcing Outcomes

It’s really intimidating to walk into a room full of people you don’t know. We’ve all had that moment of panic, scanning the room for any semi-familiar face and praying it’ll work. Just one person. I personally hate that feeling....
misner's picture

Body Language When Networking

Body language can be a powerful attractant or deterrent when it comes to building relationships with others. People assess you visually within the first fewminutes of meeting you.  I’ve been asked a lot about body language by the media over the
adamgrant's picture

This 4-Day Work Week Experiment Went So Well, the Company is Keeping It

A first-of-its-kind four-day work week experiment in New Zealand has come to an end after two months, but the trial went so well the company actually wants to make the changes permanent.While lots of research has shown the numerous benefits a