I think sometimes I confound people who don’t know me very well. Especially via phone and email, since they both lack that ability to look someone in the eye and judge whether they’re being straight up with you. So I’ve even gone so far, on phone and email, as to say that I try to leave my ego at home. A lot of people don’t know what to do with that information. Of course, it’s not coming out of context. It’s not like I’m just calling up out of the blue and saying, “Hey, just a heads-up for you: I left my ego at home today.” I’m usually offering help where it’s not expected, agreeing to a committment that might be a little off-putting, or accepting criticism. It’s usually at those times that it seems to me that it would be a Good Thing to be explicit about my desire to do good work without getting my ego all wrapped up in outcomes. So I say that. And, on the phone at least, there’s often a short silence which I interpret as confusion. I wish I could interpret it as relief or gratefulness, but it’s so unexpected for most folks that I think it’s usually a brief flash of confusion, followed by a silent, “Yeah, right.” Whatever. Ultimately, the proof is in my actions I guess.
As much as anyone else, I get grumpy when things aren’t going my way. But I really do try to check my ego at the door when I come to work. And at home, too, but it’s a whole lot easier at home. People at home have no compunctions about laying the smackdown on me. At work, there are always so many different personalities jockeying for some recognition and respect. I find it infinitely easier to be effective and get things done when I’m not trying to manage my ego as well. To the extent that I can let go of any need for recognition and accolades, I find that I do better work. I’m more focused on what I’m doing, I’m more engaged in the work at hand and it’s a heck of a lot easier to show heartfelt appreciation for others when I’m not casting around looking for a slap on the back of my own.
I’m no saint. I fall off the no-ego wagon on a regular basis. (Yet another good reason to have my personal motto, “Begin. Again.” tattooed across my stomach.) In fact, though I handle criticism pretty well (I think) at home and at work, I’m often totally surprised at my inner response when I get criticism online from relative strangers. It’s weird–I end up feeling more defensive than in any other context. Like that last post about the poker chip thingy with preschoolers. I got all grumpy about being told that my conception of capitalism was screwed up. Weird. I mean, in any other context I just would not care whether people thought I understood capitalism.
Anyway, in my experience, consciously “checking the ego at the door” has been a good practice.