I realized that I can’t really talk about ego unless I share how it relates to my daily life. For me, it’s work. Once upon a time, I had a client reach out to me requesting for me to return four (4) types of fabric scraps from previous orders completed more than eighteen (18) months ago. Confused, I asked the client to confirm that I understood the request. This request was officially confirmed via email. I have the receipts.
Guess who showed up first to dominate my response with a nasty attitude?
Now let me be clear. I was pissed. My ego went into overdrive. I could not believe that someone would ask for scraps from a previous order to be returned that was completed and delivered that long ago. I went off… to my team; my friends. I’m human. However, I am boss, a leader of a business. This is a client request. I’m also someone with feelings, a non-robot. So I have a few decisions to make at that moment.
Boss Question: How am I going to handle this insult from a client…in a professional manner? Like seriously God? WTF?
The shift has already happened. My approach is different because I know that I have to start with deep breaths. (Sometimes several of them. People try me ya’ll.)
Is your Ego about to respond? Are you about to curse?
Questions to Self continue a little like this:
Why did that happen the way it did? What is your role in this?
You have to be accountable for something here. Figure it out.
Here is the thing. I don’t know if you can relate, but I was taught how to feed my ego and keep her active and healthy. I nurtured her by becoming knowledgeable in all things that interest me, well-mannered yet brash when crossed, hard-working and results-oriented, and a bunch of other traits that make you feel extremely good about yourself whenever you walk into a room. The problem is, by allowing my ego to dominate my thinking, my interactions, subconsciously, I began to think that I was elite, too good to deal with certain people, too closed off to experience certain situations, too smart to be questioned, or take criticism. That’s when the real problems began to take place. These questions to self piss me off… but they are necessary.
As a clothing designer that specializes in couture designs, allowing my ego to dominate poses a HUGE problem. It blocks the part of my passion that loves to connect with people (in real life, not just through Instagram), to elevate their style with designs from our brand, styling from the team, and knowledge about the richness of African culture, a major inspiration that fuels the brand. I am a subject matter expert. I am busy traveler. I know things…first hand. I am connected. I am… blah blah blah…still me though. I am emotional. I am humorous. I am a real empath. I love salt & vinegar potato chips with french onion dip to a fault. I am sensitive about the work that I do. I love hard, carry a strong belief in karma and I act accordingly.
I am… that I am.
Self-awareness has become a daily practice, which led me to a path of understanding that this ego of mine was going to have to take a permanent seat. Knowing that I am a work in progress is key. Old habits die hard. It’s so easy to react with the ego leading, especially when people treat you wrong. But here is that age-old question:
Will you become the problem or the solution?
Entrepreneurship has forced me into a new space of maturity. If I can cry at the end of every episode of Undercover Boss (seriously…it’s bad), I can find space to empathize with my client’s request… or at least try. My G-Code I follow to combat egoic behavior and responses is as follows:
- Make sure you have considered the client’s perspective with an open mind before deciding how to address and resolve the issue. 1. Why did they say this? 2. Is there anything truthful about their statement? In business, I owe my client something, even if it’s a polite GTFOH response. However, if something is unclear, I need to take the initiative to gain clarity about what has gone wrong so I understand what I can do next to resolve the matter.
- I need to respond without anger and with facts. If that means waiting a few hours before responding to the client, so be it. Do your homework. Gather receipts. Analyze the situation. In the age of social media bashing, respond with an appreciation for the fact that you have an opportunity to address the situation one-on-one with the client without an audience of trolls.
- Avoid pettiness, even if baited. (Always go higher).
- Make sure you can look at your client’s grandmother and explain yourself if need be. (I am a sucker for old folks).
- Don’t be afraid to apologize for the errors. But remember, you are not sorry. Do not say “I’m sorry”, especially if you are not. You are magical, living your destiny. That’s the farthest thing from being sorry.
Allowing my ego to control how I do business is not smart. It costs. Sheesh, thus far, my ego has cost me money. My ego has cost me connections. When my ego is in control, it becomes a poor reflection on my team, and they deserve the best leader that I can be. More than anything, my ego has cost me time that I cannot get back.
Checking My Ego.
Nowadays, the tough conversations are easier. Complicated scenarios are more simple. My energy is different. I can feel it. I mean really feel it. Checking my ego means that I realize that I am not entitled to everyone’s approval. Sometimes I do things that are different from the best way. Listen, sometimes, I get it wrong. I’m a human being.
My G-Code is applicable to life outside of business transactions too. I’m experienced enough to understand that everyone will not like me all the time. It’s okay. Putting my G-Code into practice has resulted in:
Less emotional nonsense.
More relevant, deep connections.
If you don’t believe me, ask Aunty Oprah (Winfrey). She’s doing a whole podcast series about it, and it’s changing the lives of podcast communities all over the world. It’s cool to be a part of that community.
Next topic: Collaboration.