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Pride is a Two-Sided Coin

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in Remarkable Leadership with Kevin Eikenberry

When you think about March, many things might come to your mind, but one, almost certainly, is St. Patrick’s Day. The thing I love most about St. Patrick’s Day (beyond, perhaps, an excuse to color a beer) is the pride that all Irish folks have both about the celebration and who they are. Others get so caught up in the emotions of the day; it seems everyone wants to be Irish!

National pride, pride in your company, pride in your products, pride in your children, pride in your team, pride in self. These are things we think about in a positive light.

Yet we also know that same pride can get in our way too. If we are too proud of our company and products, we might not think we need to change things—that our past success insures our future success. If we are too proud of our team we might assume they can achieve things they aren’t yet prepared for. Our pride in ourselves, taken too far, can lead us to damage relationships, underappreciate mistakes, and overcompensate for ignored weaknesses.

Let’s put this dichotomy, this paradox, into perspective with a couple of real life situations.

Pride When Presenting

When you watch successful presenters, one thing that can almost assuredly be said is that they were confident (and the reverse is true as well). There is clearly a connection between confidence and pride. If I am proud of my message and proud of what I want to share, that can be good; unless it is seen by others as arrogant. My pride can get in the way of me delivering my message too—if I am so convinced of my idea that I am not open to the input of others, or don’t value their questions—that pride can reduce my effectiveness and success.

Pride can create blind spots for us—we think we know the answer so we don’t look for other solutions or ideas, and we dismiss those ideas from others at the same time.

Pride When Listening

Pride plays a dual role with our effectiveness as listeners too. I am ultra-proud of my children. I would like to think that (at least in some situations) I am an effective listener with them. Because of my pride and belief in them, I am intensely interested in their progress, thoughts and goals. In this way, my pride aids me in listening to them.

Now let’s say I’m having a conversation at work with someone and they are telling me about their children. Can my pride in my kids get in the way now? You bet! If I interrupt with stories of my kids, if I share a similar story, even if my intention is to show empathy, it may be seen as a chance to one-up the other person as I share the accomplishments and exploits of my kids. And, even if I don’t share a story, if I let my mind wander to my kids as my co-worker is talking to me about theirs ... I’m not listening.

Same pride, different results.

Pride When Coaching

If I hire someone with high expectations for him, and am proud to have him on my team, that can be a very motivating thing for that new hire. After all, who doesn’t want to have a boss that is proud of them? The encouragement and support that comes with that pride and belief can be very valuable.

And ...

If that new hire ends up not being a good fit, either culturally, relationally or from a skill perspective, could my pride get in the way?

Sure it could. I might press the person to improve. I might delay coaching because “I know he is good, he will be fine.” I might not really coach, opening up dialogue with him, but just give empty exhortations. I also might deny the mistakes he is making or challenges he is causing, regardless of how much data I have in front of me. My pride could blind me.

There must be a balance point, a way to gain the great benefits that pride provides without tipping the scale to the negative. The question is: How do we find the right balance?

While this topic is bigger than the space and time available here, there is one key determinant of whether pride is a positive or negative influencer of our behavior and our impact on others.

That factor is focus.

When our pride is focused on ourselves, it can quickly become a hindrance, an obstacle and a potential problem. When the focus is external, when our pride isn’t about us at all, it can become a prod, an encourager and a stimulator.

Remarkable Principle: Remarkable leaders handle pride with care, realizing that it is valuable when focused on others.

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