Want to Build a Great Culture? Start By Leaving Your Ego at the Door

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.

17 Ways to Be More Productive This Fall

Okay, it’s time for reality to set in: You’ve got less than four months to accomplish everything you set out to do this year. (Less than four because September doesn’t really start until the 4th, and I know you’ve scheduled a few days off to see the leaves turn, then there’s Thanksgiving and, of course, almost nobody works the whole month of December.)

So . . . it’s a key time to revisit those New Year’s Resolutions. And pull out your performance management goals. And think about what’s really important (and necessary) for you to achieve before the ball drops on December 31st.

Now that you’ve got your list, one thing is clear: You’re going to have to be a whole lot more productive to get it all done. No more early departure Fridays for you. Long lunches? In the rearview mirror. Social media? De-friend everybody. 

Instead, use these 17 ways to be as productive as possible:

  1. Figure out when you’re most productive and block time to tackle difficult problems.For me, that’s early morning. So I allocate time–avoiding meetings before 10 a.m.–and get to work during those periods. (But if you’re a night person, adjust your schedule to channel your inner owl.)
  2. Speaking of meetings, set an objective to decline at least 10 percent of the meetings you’re invited to. Ask yourself: “Is this meeting really necessary? And if it is, do the people running it really need me?”
  3. And if you’re organizing a meeting, resolve to make it worth everyone’s time. Start by setting clear objectives for what the meeting will accomplish. 
  4. Never leave any meeting without agreeing on next steps and roles.
  5. Every evening, create an old-fashioned list on paper of the things you need to do the next day. This not only creates focus, it also helps you sleep more soundly (since you’re not obsessing over what you need to do tomorrow).
  6. Stop procrastinating. I used to be one of the 25 percent of people who are chronic procrastinators. But I finally discovered that putting things off not only affected my productivity–it made my team suffer. September is a great month to go cold turkey. 
  7. Lay out your clothes for the next day. This is such an old-fashioned practice, but it really works–because rather than racing around madly trying on clothing, you’re all set.
  8. Make a good night’s rest a priority–more important than cyber-stalking your old flames on social media or binge-watching old episodes of Homeland. After all, you can’t be your best if you’re dragging-down tired.
  9. Get up 15 minutes earlier. It’s doable and that 15 minutes just creates enough time for you to manage your morning tasks less frenetically.
  10. Make the most of your commute. If you take the bus or train, read a book or professional journal. If you drive, try podcasts or audiobooks.
  11. Shut down email when you’re doing work that requires concentration. Choose your most productive period at work–say, 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.–and actually close your email during that time.
  12. Make a “Do Not Disturb” sign and post it at your workspace when you need to get something done. One of my colleagues has a photo of a closed door that she sticks on her cubicle to signal that she really, really doesn’t want to talk to anyone right now.
  13. When you’re really under pressure, get lost. Book a conference room somewhere far away from your workspace where no one will find you for an hour or two. Or borrow an empty office. (You might want to ask first.)
  14. Decide on how to manage sudden ideas. Although ideas are wonderful, they can get you off track. So record ideas in a notebook and review the list every week or so. I write ideas on Post-It Notes, then stick them in a folder for future reference.
  15. Give yourself a proper lunch break. Several of my colleagues always leave the office for at least 20 minutes–they say that fresh air and change of scenery really refreshes the brain. I like to read useless stuff like Us Weekly because there’s nothing more energizing than seeing how celebrities are just like us.
  16. Delegate more. Even if you’re a secret micromanager, there are things other people can actually do (maybe even better than you do them).
  17. Once you make a decision, stick to it. Don’t spin or revisit action steps. 

Finally, remember the words of wisdom from Yoda, the productivity guru (Star Wars, of course): “There is no try, there is only do or do not.” 

Published on: Aug 29, 2018