Egos are dangerous. They get in the way of self-improvement. My dad used to always tell me “The day you know it all is the day you cease to learn.” He was right.

Have you ever witnessed someone who, while meeting someone who has a much larger and more profitable business than theirs, try to impress them rather than question and listen to them? As a guru of sorts, I have encountered this many times. I am approached, or called by someone looking for help, only to have them tie up my time telling me how smart they are. I don’t care how smart they are. And I don’t have time to engage in a one-sided conversation. However, if they are truly looking for help, the chance to help them is something I cherish. Paid or not.

I know some of you are a bit off put by the previous paragraph as I sound arrogant and selfish. Those are not my intentions, but I put a great value on my time and I don’t appreciate people who eat it up. As much as I do enjoy meeting new people and talking business, I can’t help but see past the reason the person speaking to me has an underperforming business. Pride.

Ego can be healthy. The focus on the needs of “I” is an important factor in self-improvement. It is the desire for profit which usually comes as a result of painfully running a business without profit that inspires change. So humble yourself. Understand that if a teacher wants to know something about you that will help them give you better information, they will ask. Don’t be an un-teachable ego, be an inspired ego.

While an ego can be healthy, I’m not sure pride in one’s self ever is. It is hard to avoid feeling proud when your son just scored a touchdown, but what real benefit is there to others when you point it out to them. Worse is the person who is constantly saying “Look what I did.” Humility always trumps pride. “Who did this?… Wow, I did not know you did that. Hey Burt, did you see what Jim did?”

In the consulting business self-promotion is necessary to show what is possible. If I had spent 10 years running a company with no growth or profits, my advice would have little value. How I deliver those accomplishments is what’s key. If I say “I found this problem and here is how I fixed it…” I run the risk of sounding egotistical. If I say “My business was encountering this problem… so my team tried this… and it worked.” Do you see the subtle difference? I try to stay humble not just to be more likeable, I do it because people open up to me when I can show I am just like them. If I had never had a challenge in my business or claimed I always ran a perfect business, then how can I relate to the business owner who does not know how he is going to meet payroll? I have been there. I know the pain.

Be humble. Admit failure. Open your mind to a different way of thinking if you want to change something in your business. Listen with the intent to understand. Implement change with the understanding it may not work as you first thought it would. When it doesn’t – don’t look for the reasons why it can’t work, look for the reason it can.