Have you ever been dealing with a customer and thought, “Man, this guy won’t even listen. He thinks he’s right—ALL the time. What an EGO!”
Frustrating, isn’t it?

We try and try to do things right, to serve our customers and our employees. But have you ever wondered if your ego was actually preventing you from growing your business?

From the moment we are born, we are rewarded for being “right.” It is the fundamental building block of our educational system. In fact, we grow up learning to actually fear being “wrong.” We believe there is ridicule or shame in being wrong, and that there is vindication and reward in being right.

But think about it—when is the last time you watched a political commentary show, pitting two opponents debating an issue, where someone actually came away right or wrong?

These programs prey upon our own conditioned need to be right. A function of our ego, that powerful sense of self-identity that is simultaneously the driving force of human achievement, and the root cause of violence and war.

The ego becomes so powerful as we grow that it changes the way we view and interpret the world. When we are young, the ego is leveraged as a reward system. I suppose that is because educators once thought that humans needed to feel pleasure if they were to be compelled to seek knowledge.

Unfortunately, by constantly reinforcing the pleasure/pain dynamic of being right or wrong, we change our own ability to merely consider other points of view.

How many people have you spoken to, who you were absolutely certain were listening to what you were saying?

How many people have you spoken to, who you were absolutely certain were just waiting for their turn to tell you that you’re wrong?

Well, if they’re certain that they’re right, then you MUST be wrong. Right?

If we are to GO, then we are to go together, right?

But what if our journey depends on someone who has one basic need. To be RIGHT.

That’s a no-Go. No?

The famed investor Ray Dalio chooses to run his investment firm by what he calls an idea meritocracy; a system in which the best ideas are the prized outcome.

Utopian? Perhaps. At least in some situations.

But what if the structures of our upbringing and education (and now leadership) were formed around the idea that truth could only be found when combined with the virtues of empathy and perspective?

What if the most esteemed voices in our lives (and in our heads) were those who sought not just their truth, but truly sought the truth.

I encourage you to take a step back, and examine your ego—with customers, with employees, with vendors.

Are you listening to understand, or just to reply?
Are you listening to find truth, or just to be right?

When we manage our businesses with a sense of empathy, and a desire for context and perspective, we’re engaging those people who we depend on in a meaningful way.

When you start doing that, success is inevitable.

Seems like a simple concept. But I might be wrong.


Ed Kalaher is the president and CEO of Window Depot USA in Canfield, Ohio.

1 Comment

  1. A very interesting concept. This article is really making me look deeper inside.

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