As a leader, you need to make dozens of decisions a day, inspire confidence in your team, and always be — or seem — right. Is it ever possible to put aside your ego?
The last part is incredibly important. When you’re building a startup, what matters is achieving results: Creating great products, providing great service, generating sales and revenue and results. That’s what matters.
At LogoMix, we went from $0 to $15 million in revenue and eventually sold to a Fortune 1000 company. Our egos didn’t matter. My ego definitely didn’t matter. What mattered, what we celebrated, were results.
So how do you keep the focus on the mission and on company goals? The process starts with you: the leader of the company.
An employee may disagree with you. An employee may say they would have done something differently. An employee may even talk down to you, even though you’re the CEO.
As a founder, those moments are never fun. You have a choice: You can get defensive, snap back, or rest on your laurels as the founder.
Or you can take a step back, listen, think about what you hear, and create a culture where your team can share their feelings with you. Even if their feelings hurt your feelings.
Why swallowing your pride is crucially important
Do that and you can accomplish a lot more than you might think. If you can make sure your team feels free to challenge and even criticize you — to your face — you’ll naturally create a culture where employees feel free to suggest new ideas and different ways of doing things.
They’ll feel comfortable raising issues, giving feedback, and proposing changes. After all, when people feel comfortable saying something negative to the person in charge, they will definitely feel comfortable saying something they think will generate a positive outcome for the company.
That’s why swallowing your pride is so important. You build better and more trusting relationships with your team, and an environment where the best ideas win. Where the best results win. Where taking the right steps, working on the right projects, and focusing on outcomes — not egos or agendas — wins.
Don’t stop there. Help your employees learn to check their own egos at the door. Too many organizations — or people in organizations — lose focus on the mission and how to best work together to achieve that mission by letting their egos get involved. When that happens, it’s your job to help them circle back to the real goal you’re trying to achieve.
How to encourage the same behavior in every leader
Too many managers and supervisors also forget to check their egos at the door. Instead of rolling over a junior employee who criticizes a decision and putting him in his place, help them understand how to talk through the issue without letting their egos get the best of them.
The best way to do that? Share a few stories of times when you’ve been criticized and handled it poorly. Explain what happened. Explain how your ego kept you from handling the situation the best way it could be handled. Show a little vulnerability. Be the cautionary tale.
The supervisor or manager will appreciate your honesty, because we typically learn best from stories, and he or she will definitely remember the takeaway. The goal is to walk the fine line between maintaining yourself as a great leader and maintaining a healthy ego without letting your ego enter into the way you interact with and lead people.
Accept criticism with grace, let the best ideas win (even if they aren’t your ideas), and set an example for how other leaders in the company should act. If you do those things, your team will stay focused on results.
Which, at any company, are what truly matter.