5 ways your ego is stopping your business success

Jodie Cook explores how founders can allow their need to retain control to get in the way of growing their startup and the positive impacts of letting go of the reins.

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Without personal growth there is no business growth. Without you as a founder improving, upgrading, and shedding old versions of you, you’ll stay stuck in the same size business with the same day-to-day from inception to retirement. All your energy will be spent just keeping afloat. That’s not the plan. If your workload is growing in direct proportion to your revenue, your ego might be putting a ceiling on your future. 

Here are 5 ways your ego might be stopping your business success.

1. Keeping hold of responsibilities

In the early days you did everything. Every task was yours, every process had your name on it. You took pride in owning every detail and rushing around making sure everything you committed to was done. Things are different now, but you haven’t quite changed enough.

There are tasks you’re in charge of that could be owned by someone else. Deep down, you know it, but you’re not letting them go. Perhaps you’re scared someone else might do them wrong, you’re afraid of losing control or you’re kidding yourself they simply must be done by you. Either way, repeatedly doing old tasks is stopping you doing the new ones that hold growth for all involved. 

As a founder, your responsibilities are transient. You should be on a continuous journey of putting yourself out of a job, handing your duties over to well-trained team members, and finding new ones.

2. Need to solve every problem

You feel a sense of satisfaction at solving an issue and watching the solution work. It’s normal, and it happens to everyone. But failing to resist the urge to barrel in with answers to every glitch in your business is costing your team members from experiencing that feeling.

You have the experience, your intuition is sound and you could remedy the problem faster than most, but without being left to think of answers, you train a reliance on you that only gets worse. You don’t want a gaggle of copycats, you want a team of self-sufficient and resourceful partners. The only way to do that is to equip them with the tools for decision-making and letting them use them.

As your business grows, your problems should be getting bigger. If your team members are playing their part, they solve the smaller ones and they only require you when it really hits the fan. 

3. Need to look busy

To get from where you were to where you want to be requires a change in how you work. Rushing around saying yes to every request matched a version of you from the past. The future you is patient and poised, thinking hard instead of working hard, zoomed out and visionary instead of on the ground and in every detail.

When you’re taking long walks, meditating, and staring out windows pondering the future, you don’t look very busy. The opposite is true; you look like you don’t have anything important to do. Your ego doesn’t like looking that way. It mistakenly believes that effective work looks like back-to-back bookings and firing off emails ten at a time. It’s keeping you playing small because it’s trying to keep you in the past.

Without confidence in the clarity that blank space brings, it’s uncomfortable to look like you don’t have anything to do. But this is where the real magic happens, and your team will understand as soon as you explain it.

4. Have to know everything

In the first few years of running my agency I knew every client’s name and their top business goals. I knew every team member inside out and understood every tiny detail of every admin task. As the agency grew, I started to know less. My operations manager created new processes and followed their completion through, letting me know when she hit a roadblock. My account managers got familiar with all facets of their clients. The website ranked and leads came in without actively pushing. I no longer needed to know all the ins and outs, but realising this wasn’t easy.

No one expects Jeff Bezos to know why their parcel didn’t arrive or calls Mark Zuckerberg to report an Instagram glitch. They don’t feel any guilt for this lack of knowledge within their businesses, so why do you think you have to know everything that goes on? Having to know everything is nothing more than your ego trying to tell you that knowledge equals power. But there’s more power in choosing what knowledge you have.

If you have trained the people in charge and you trust them to deliver, being in the weeds is surplus to requirements. Replace the space with new data, big plans, and ideas for the way forward.

5. Require everything done your way

Different doesn’t mean wrong. Give someone a role, outline their responsibilities, and let them get on with it. They will produce output that will look different to what you expected and different to what you would have done. But that’s okay. The first time this happens, your ego is jarred. Worried you’re losing importance, it labels different as wrong and tries to convince you to take back control.

Harder than delegating a responsibility is keeping it delegated when you realise it’s been done differently. But keep pushing through. Getting over this gap is what means you can let other people in and you can keep progressing. Falling at this hurdle means forever being overworked and overwhelmed with no way out.

Other people bring fresh perspectives, useful insights and solutions you didn’t see. They will arrive at them in novel ways and stopping them halfway through costs the results that will grow your business to new heights. Consider that your way has an expiry date.

Ego going, going, gone

It’s a hard pill to swallow but recognising where your ego plays a part in limiting your success can mean you move right past it. Don’t let your inflated sense of self and that chip on your shoulder stop you building the empire that’s within you.

Mid shot of Jodie Cook freelance journalist.
Jodie Cook - entrepreneur and writer

Jodie Cook is founder of Coachvox AI, enabling thought leaders to create an AI coach version of themselves, to generate leads and engage their audience. Jodie started her first business at 22, straight after completing a business management degree and one-year graduate scheme. While building her social media agency over a ten year period, she started writing for Forbes on the topic of entrepreneurs and was included on the Forbes 30 under 30 list of 2017. In 2021 Jodie sold the agency for seven figures and wrote her book, Ten Year Career, sharing lessons from the entrepreneurial journey.

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