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Confidence vs. Ego

Updated: Oct 17, 2018

My original intent of this article radically changed just in the last couple of days. Iron Core does a lot of work in the SMB space, and I have always had the goal of "moving up” the food chain and getting into the corporate setting, but the more I thought about it, the more I question if it is the right strategy. One of the biggest differences I see, is the idea of confidence versus Ego. I think it takes a lot of ego or a healthy view of one’s ego to start your own business, but the businesses that I see growing every year have a lot more confidence than ego now that they are running the business. The owners that I work with who have Ego and have not converted it to a quiet confidence are not growing and their growth line looks like a wave versus stair steps. Most owners who I speak to are quick to rattle off the challenges they are facing and are trying to manage. Once I recommend the idea of purchasing outside help, 90% of the time I hear “oh, we will figure it out”. It takes a lot of discipline on my part to not ask the obvious which is "if that is true, why haven’t you done anything about it?”. I can understand if they don’t believe I am the right solution, but most don’t make it about me, it is about anyone from the “outside”. I often wonder how much money and thus jobs are not created due to Ego. I find that many feel that bringing in anyone from the outside is a sign of weakness. I even have to call what I do consulting for some people because if I use the word coach, they immediately equate it with something spiritual or “wooo, wooo”. I would say that 90% of the consulting that I do with business owners is really coaching. Many times it is personal coaching.

On the other hand, the owners I work with who have what I would call a quiet confidence demonstrate a disproportionate amount of self awareness. They know what they are good at and actually implement what everyone reads about surrounding yourself with people who compliment your weaknesses. These owners don’t worry about what other people are going to think if they have to bring someone else along. This is especially true within their organization. Many worry about what their people think, and what they don’t realize is that their people are thinking “why don’’t we bring someone on who knows how to do this?”. This quiet confidence gives them the ability to not worry about what others might think of them. They make decisions quickly and if they make a mistake they call it out quickly and pivot. Ego usually doesn’t allow you to make change until you are forced or it’s too late.

What I have had to ask myself is, what would this look like in a corporate environment. Most of the people that recognize the need for change and whether they have the resources and ability to make those changes don’t sit in the corner office. Now, I know a lot of this is driven by the structure and even macro influences like the pressure to raise the stock price short term. That being said, I think we have seen how well the CEO’s with huge Ego’s and short term thinking end. Personally, they end up great, but the overall company suffers. When I think about the CEO’s who lead with that quiet confidence, they are not scared to upset the apple cart, and it is not in their nature to think about their severance package before the health of their employees and their customers.

I recognize this is not a new concept. I am just blown away by the number of times I have been told that they knew I was successful in my previous life, but they did not know how that would translate to helping a company like theirs. Every company should try to differentiate themselves from the competition, but what makes a great company has not changed much in decades. There is a reason that “Built to Last” has been one of the top selling business books since inception. It is because the concepts are simple to understand. The reason most fail after reading the book is because they don’t realize how hard it is to create change even around simple concepts. It doesn’t get any easier to understand “get the right people on the bus”, but I can’t tell you how bad this advice gets executed because Ego gets in the way of seeing how their behaviors get in the way of getting the right people and how much attrition truly costs an organization. Most owners think the idea of bringing someone into help interview candidates is counterintuitive or even sacrilegious, but they don’t realize the reason they are hiring the wrong people is because they spend more time selling their company(EGO), and not asking the right questions.

I can’t tell you how Blessed I am to work with individuals who have quiet confidence are willing to admit where they need help. It is really special when you have a client who takes and wants tough feedback. I sit in amazement at these individuals because they are going to win and win big as long as they deploy patience. I work extra hard to make sure I provide disproportionate value to everyone, but really want these owners to recognize that value because they will refer me, and their friends are a lot like them. Something to think about whether you are a consultant, owner, or coach. I wrote this piece more to remind me than anyone else.

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