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Keep Your ‘A’ Players

Originally published
Originally published: 8/10/2020

Knowing the difference between confidence and ego will go a long way toward employee retention.


Confidence and self-assuredness draw people towards you while being egotistical drives others away. As a business owner, knowing the difference between the two will have a long and lasting effect on “A Player” retention.

We all have an ego or what we consider our sense of self. It can be spot-on as long as you keep it in check or grossly inaccurate when you let yourself get puffed up over a few successes. Failure can negatively affect your ego as well.

Whether tipped out of balance through failure or success, ego can make us lose meaningful moments through self-doubt or self-aggrandizement.

So, what is ego and how can learning to control it help us win meaningful moments, make real connections with customers and most importantly, help us keep our A Players?

Years ago, when my business was in a state of transition, I knew I had to make a change. I started living by some of the principles we were teaching our clients and distilled the lessons we learned through this process into my second book, “Patterned After Excellence.”

Learning how to confront my own ego was difficult, but it helped me take control of my life and work and start delivering better experiences for my team as well as every one of my clients.

Confidence vs. Ego

First, ego and confidence are radically different. Ego is driven by your successes and failures and it’s how you map those onto your understanding of who you are. It’s taking a string of successes and, instead of assuming that you must be great to have done such great things, learning from your successes and delivering credit where it’s due — whether it be on the circumstances, on your team or even just a lucky break.

Confidence comes from hard work and dedication. It is taking a step back and assessing a situation on its merits. It’s understanding that you only get out of a moment what you put in, which means if you haven’t done the work, you can’t claim the rewards. It’s believing in yourself without bragging about yourself.

In short, confidence is understanding where you are and being sure of your ability without overstating your importance or claiming to be better than you are. Confidence is gained over time, through difficult challenges and hard-won successes, with a measure of gratitude for the opportunities you were given and is reinforced by continual learning throughout your life. In comparison, ego is crossing the finish line without running the race.

Warning Signs

There’s a fine line between confidence and ego. It can be easy to overstep, but if you know the warning signs, it can be just as easy to avoid.

1. Needing to be right. There’s a huge difference between needing to be right and being confident. Even the most confident people can understand that they may be wrong or at the very least that someone else will have a different point of view, while egotistical people are more inclined to argue their position as if it were the only valid one.

2. Seeking validation above all else. When you accomplish a goal, who knows about it and how do they find out? If you’re bragging about every success you’ve had, there’s a good chance you’re spoiling future successes in the process. Success and failure are events. They are a moment in time. If you attach yourself to them, it will negatively affect your ability to continue learning and growing.

3. Do you ask — and listen — for feedback? It isn’t enough to just ask what people think of you and your accomplishments. Sometimes, feedback can be cold, but listening to it and engaging it on its merits can lead to winning the moment and improving yourself.

4. Do you make fun of others or laugh at yourself? Egotistical people can get so wrapped up in their need to appear serious and in control that they end up projecting that onto others, appearing as if they’re above the very idea of fun. Confident people aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves.

5. Are your A Players team members or tools? When you think of your team, are they people or just cogs in a machine? Nobody can do everything on their own, but confidence is won from knowing your limits and working well with and trusting others.

6. Do you know everything? Above all, confidence is borne from a lifetime of learning. There’s always something new to know but shutting yourself off from learning because you think you know everything is a surefire way to end up knowing very little.

Everyone experiences these egotistical symptoms from time to time. Even I have, throughout the course of building my business and it’s led to losing A Players that would have provided great benefits for me and my team. Learning how to see ego coming and how to stop it, is a sure mark of a confident leader.

Stages of Confidence

Becoming confident can sometimes be a painful, difficult process. It is often, the only way we learn what we don’t know. However, when we fail, we can get back up and start again and over time, pure grit can turn more and more failures into successes.

When we start something new, the whole world is wide-open with possibilities. And then we try the thing and realize that we’re much less talented than we thought we were.

Thinking isn’t doing and thinking you’re great at something without practice or training is a great way to get stuck and never make any progress.

But say you decide to push on through and try to learn all you can about the task at hand. You will find yourself face to face with all the inadequacies you carry with you and slowly, over time, you will work through them. This is a humbling process and most often, you’ll hate how little progress you make at times. But you don’t climb Everest on your first hike and as you grow through this process, eventually you’ll start making it just a little closer to the top.

Eventually, this stage of conscious incompetence ends and you find yourself understanding more and more about what you’re trying to accomplish. The hardest part is over, but now you know what you know and, more importantly, what you don’t.

From here, you work tirelessly to hone your skills and you’re reinforced by the successful outcome of your practice. Eventually, all that practice even becomes second-nature and that’s where true confidence comes from. And confidence draws A Players towards you because they like you and want to be like you.

Doing the Work

When people say you have to put in the work to really become confident in what you’re doing, that’s what they mean: agonizing over every little inch of progress until, one day, you make it to your goal without letting it go to your head.

Learning to be confident in your business requires constant learning, training and self-improvement. If you do not put in the work, you can’t grow as a person and any confidence you have will crumble at the first sign of failure. Instead, focus on planting the seeds of confidence and nurturing them throughout your life with continued work.

Eventually, those shards of ego will turn into true confidence, enriching everyone around you. Especially your A Players.


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