Ego in business is costing millions of dollars a year. In 2017, according to Gallup’s “State of the Global Workplace” report, 85 percent of employees were not engaged or were actively disengaged at work. The economic consequences of this global norm are approximately $7 trillion in lost productivity. In 2017, 2.5 hours a day, people were immersed in resisting change. Drama, unproductive thinking and disruptive behavior permeate the fabric of our organizations.
The word “ego” carries a lot of baggage. We often hear the associations – “She is on an ego trip,” “Where does he get off being so self-righteous, strutting around as if he owns the place?” and, my favorite, “She is too big for her boots.” Rarely have three letters evoked so much emotional drama.
It is a lot easier to see someone else’s ego than it is to see your own. It’s like that little fragment of green stuff stuck in between your two front teeth. You can go all day not knowing it’s there, but others do. When you finally see yourself in the mirror, it’s like, “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
Having an ego isn’t the problem. The challenge is that the ego’s leading role is to generate drama – unproductive behavior that keeps business leaders and their teams from delivering the highest level of results. In her book “No Ego,” Cy Wakeman describes the ego as an “unreliable narrator” of your reality, taking pleasure in the drama it creates.
In both business and life, the only power that circumstances have over you is the power you give them. Success hinges on the mastery of your psychology. Here are five ways to disarm your ego and start being an impactful leader.
Leadership is not about inspiring others.
The traditional approach to leadership has preached that leaders need to inspire others. This is not possible. I can’t inspire you to create change. Inspiration is an intrinsic motivator and has an internal locus of control. We need to make the decision and drive our change. We need to take responsibility for our thinking, behavior and actions. Our happiness is not correlated with our circumstances; it is linked with how much responsibility we take for our choices and decisions.
Create a different reality.
When you create a shift in consciousness, you shape your reality toward a different mindset. You shift your focus on how you can, rather than how you can’t. In the workplace, when a leader apologizes for a change, he or she reinforces how something can’t be done. Instead, it is essential to reframe by acknowledging the change and focusing on how the team, collectively, can make it work.
Leaders don’t manage people; they manage energy.
Sometimes, in the workplace, you need to choose your state – being in a beautiful state or choose to suffer and remain in misery. Most conversations tend to invest people’s energy into why they can’t do something rather than how they can. Your ego will seek to immerse yourself in suffering, because you eliminate what is fact and create stories. In a moment, you have lost an opportunity. Your brain conspires to gather all the evidence to support what you are looking for. By creating a circuit-breaker, you can delineate the facts from the story and move into self-reflection.
Business requires courageous conversations.
If you want to interrupt the ego to move the drama into action, ask quality questions. The human brain cannot rant and self-reflect at the same time. As a leader, breaking the cycle by asking good questions will interrupt employees’ thinking and guide them to the bottom of their story. The role of the modern-day business leader is to lead a new mindset from learned helplessness to a new reality. Questions like, “What do you know for sure?”, “What did you do to help?”, “What could you do to add value?” and, “What are you committing to doing next?” can disrupt the cycle, shift the mindset, and support collective growth and success.
Gratitude becomes contagious.
Making a daily habit to reflect on all the people who helped make your day successful helps you develop a sense of humility. Sending a message of gratitude fosters an environment of trust. A Glassdoor survey indicated that 81 percent of employees will work harder when their boss shows appreciation.
When it comes to business, check your ego at the door. Park the emotion to the side, and approach a conversation with an intent to heal the situation. Your intention and choices dictate the nature of the conversation. When you move beyond the ego, you will drive yourself and your people into endless possibility.