I just read an amazing book that I keep going back to for advice and reminders. In fact, I’ve got post-it tabs on about every other page. “Ego is the Enemy,” by Ryan Holiday, dissects perhaps the biggest obstacle any of us will face in business – our own egos. Your ego is your conscious mind, the part that you consider your “self.” And it’s no secret that in the business world, there are a lot of huge egos.
At Petra Coach, I lead my member organizations through quarterly planning sessions where I often have to deal with big personalities. Now, that’s not a bad thing. Anyone with the drive to be an entrepreneur and the energy to grow a business staffed by A-players is likely to be a force to be reckoned with – personally and professionally. However, that very process of creating and growing a company can breed some bad habits that could ultimately destroy (or at minimum stall the success of) the very business they’re seeking to build. At every step in the process – at every level – we’ve got to keep our egos in check.
So, how do we do that?
Based on Holiday’s sage advice and my own work with “egos” across the country (including my own), here are four tips to help put your ego in its place and stay focused on what’s important.
What’s more egotistical than trying to keep your ego in check all by yourself? Nothing. We’ve all got things we need to learn, and you’re no exception. The biggest mistake you can make is to think there’s nothing you can learn from the people around you. You’ve got limits – get to know them and seek other’s help and opinions to round out your own expertise. If you find yourself resisting input from others, it’s likely just a mask for insecurity and weakness.
Being humble will help those around you recognize that you value more than just your own ideas. When something goes right, give credit to everyone involved. When something goes wrong, don’t cast blame. Take responsibility yourself and work with the team to build a system to mitigate future issues. Humility and vulnerability are strengths that every business leader must cultivate in order to establish loyalty and trust amongst any team.
If you keep doing your work to the highest standards possible, the outcome will take care of itself. This can be a tough one for any “doer” – which all entrepreneurs are by definition. We’re hard-wired to go for win. We focus on making plans, setting goals and achieving desired outcomes. But trust and uncertainty are part of the process however uncomfortable they might make business leaders. Remember that allowing yourself to trust in outcomes does not mean that planning is not essential to the process. You must take small steps every day if you expect to move forward. Just don’t let your focus on “winning” distract from the important work of the day, week or month.
Keep things in perspective. We’re all a very small part of a very large universe. We matter – but not as much as we think we do. The minute you think what you’ve done (or what you’ve got planned) is the most important thing going, you’ve already lost credibility. If your employees see you as someone whose priorities are out of whack, they’re likely to find another place to work. However, if you recognize your realistic place in the world and encourage your team to keep things in perspective, they’ll see you as a genuine leader who has their personal interests at heart – not just the interests of the company or the work of the moment.
Personal growth can lead to professional success – but not the other way around. Don’t let what began as ambition become entitlement. Whether you’re an established Fortune 500 CEO or you’ve just started your own company, keep in mind that it’s not all about you. Remember where you came from, stay humble and keep laser-focused on being the best you can be. Make ego your friend and you – and everyone around you – can achieve great things.
This article originally appeared on Huffington Post.