Taming the Entrepreneur’s Ego

Taming the Entrepreneur’s Ego

I always thought Ego is different from Self-esteem, untilled a good friend of mine beautifully defined it as; ego pops up when you want to do something for your own selfish interest, while self esteem is a notch above the greed when you do something for the benefit of your family, organization, society or humanity at large. Ego is centered on you, while self esteem is centered not on you. So when we go back to traditional definition searching (thanks to Google for giving us a choice there too), it says, ‘Ego is a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.’

Then I wanted to know what is self-esteem? So I went back to find this, ‘Self-esteem is confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect.’

I am sure not all of you understood the real difference. Well, it took my 6 months to dissect! This has been pestering me for a long time and hence sharing it with you guys, now that I found the key to this puzzle. What is the real difference between ego and self esteem?

They both are pretty much the same, but with a very thin line separating them. If you spread an aspect from 0 to 100, you would only see a clear difference at the poles (two ends of the spectrum). That’s where similarly meant words or identical looking objects are distinguished clearly.

For example, when you do a sampling of a finished good in a production unit, as long as the finished good is closer to the tolerance limit the product would be approved to the next stage. If a finished good in a manufacturing process is approved with 97.5% accuracy with a tolerance of 1%, you would approve any product that has 96.5% upward in its accuracy or completeness. That’s also because the difference between 96.5% & 97.5% accuracy is very small. You might not even see the difference with naked eye. But when you compare a product of 96.5% to a 100% accurate one, the difference is wide and clear. Similarly, you might not make a difference between ego and self-esteem, unless you compare the extreme points in the spectrum.

Now that I tried defining this in detail, let’s understand why this holds a key in an entrepreneur’s decision-making process. When a corporate honcho or a senior employee leaves a fancy corporate career to become an entrepreneur, he comes with a lot of baggage. He or she has to shift gears from a fancy office to a not so fancy one. Spend more time with the team designing the application, marketing campaigns, product roadmap, customer engagement programmes, and many more things. You might even have to do all the rounds of interview yourself including following up with the recruiter. When you do all these keeping in mind the interest of the company, that’s when you have converted your ego to self-esteem. This is a fantastic step towards taming your ego, which otherwise can cause a lot of damage. This could bring similar good to building relationship with your employees, partners and clients.

You might be part of a $100mn project in your corporate career, but when you have to decide how to spend $50 dollars, you should wear the hat of the business owner and think how to spend that money in the best interest of the company. If a person has to grow a plant, he has to do whatever it requires to protect the plant and make sure it grows to a bigger plant or a tree. If it requires him to kill his ego and ask someone for water, nutrients, etc., he has to do it. Otherwise, the very purpose of the intent to grow a plant is sabotaged. That’s how an entrepreneur should convert his ego to self-esteem. Don’t use your personal ego for making organizational decisions; you are bound to lose.

How to avoid falling prey to this?

  1. Combined wisdom: Involve your partners or core team (if you don’t have partners) while making important decisions. It doesn’t matter if the other team members have domain knowledge or not; it would save you a lot of mid night oil.
  1. Benefits: Jot down the benefits that the company would achieve by this decision (short-term & long-term). You would get to know mid-way if this decision is being influenced to satisfy your personal ego, or the real organizational benefit.
  1. Culture: Fortunately, culture is contagious and can be moderated. When you, as the business owner start thinking and work towards the growth of the organisation, your team gets it automatically and replicates your efforts, taking your company to newer heights. This is the biggest and most powerful intangible benefit that you can achieve that can change the face of your company. Similarly, attribute the success to the team, even if you played the major role in it. Basically, change all equations from ‘I’ to ‘WE’.

There are many heroes who have worked relentlessly for the betterment of the society, country, company, and at times humanity at large. Scientists, politicians, soldiers, bureaucrats, doctors, inventors, discoverers, and many more silent unsung heroes who have sacrificed their personal egos to the welfare of society at large. The entrepreneur’s journey is going to be no different.

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