How to Feed Your Ego

Do you have an ego? If you’re reading this then it’s likely you have a pulse and if you have a pulse then you most certainly have an ego. 

That’s not a problem, the problem comes from not understanding that having an ego is as normal as breathing. 

As a leader you must remember that your people have egos and their ego needs to be fed with recognition and feedback. Hungry egos lead to unproductive, disengaged followers and no leader can afford that. Consider feeding your people’s egos to be an investment in them and your organization.

While feeding your people’s ego you must also remember that you have an ego too. Just like everyone else’s it must be fed. You may be working for a limited leader who doesn’t offer recognition or feedback. Maybe you’re leading from the middle of the organization where your efforts are largely hidden. 

In either case, it may be necessary for you to feed your own ego. Having a hungry ego does not make you weak, it doesn’t make you selfish and it doesn’t make you an egomaniac. It simply makes you human.

Here are a few ideas on how you may feed your own ego.

Discover satisfaction wherever and whenever you can. Be satisfied knowing the real reason for the success of your team or the success of a project. If you know the reason it’s a safe bet others do as well, whether they acknowledge it or not. 

Accept the compliments, wherever they come from. You may not be receiving compliments from your boss or leader but hey, a compliment is a compliment. Accept them graciously because if you’re hungry enough it doesn’t really matter where the food is coming from.

Understand the value of what you do. Oftentimes people aren’t appreciated until they are gone. That happens when their value isn’t understood. Whether others understand the value that you bring to the organization or not you always have the ability to understand it yourself.

Now… a couple of caveats. 

A healthy ego is a lean ego. Your ego needs to be fed but it doesn’t need to be stuffed. Never eat more ego food than you need to be healthy. While having an ego is not a problem having a great big fat ego certainly is!

Make sure what you’re ego is eating is actually ego food and not waste from a bull. If you lie to yourself about the value you bring to the organization or your accomplishments then your ego begins to smell like the bull. That’s no way to lead!

Keep your ego well fed and your career and relationships will be healthy too.

The Importance of Recognition

People crave recognition. They crave recognition almost as much as they crave air to breath or water to drink. In fact people NEED recognition to carry them through the difficult times that all humans will eventually face.

Needing recognition is not a weakness, it is just a part of life.

I know lots of people who say they don’t need recognition. They are “self-fulfilled.” Well they may need a bit less recognition than other people but they are kidding themselves if they don’t think they need any recognition from anyone ever. 

Humans have this thing known as an ego. If you have a pulse then you have an ego. It’s not bad to have an ego so long as you keep it under control but it is a problem when we fail to recognize that everyone else has an ego too. 

What many people forget is that an ego sometimes needs to be fed in order to stay healthy. One of a leader’s primary responsibilities is to feed the ego of their people. Just like with a real human diet, small consistent “feedings” are far more healthy than binge feeding once in a great while and then starving for nourishment in between. 

Those small consistent feedings are called compliments, feedback, and coaching. If you’re a leader who starves your people of ego food then you are missing a big piece of leading. 

None of this is new for experienced leaders; they know their people need recognition and feedback. The mistake they make is believing they can provide that recognition and feedback when “they have an extra moment” or in their “free time.” 

Look at your calendar, go ahead, look right now. Exactly when is that “extra moment” or “free time” on your calendar?

Most leaders don’t have extra time or free time in their day. That means the time required to provide recognition and feedback must be baked into their schedule. It must be planned and intentional. It needs to be more than “once in a while” because a “while” can be a very long time when you’re a busy leader.

If you really desire to grow your people then you need to give them the recognition they NEED in order to  grow. When was the last time you purposely stopped what you were doing to give well deserved recognition or feedback. If you don’t know the date and time then I would submit to you that it’s been too long. 

Your team’s collective ego is hungry… feed them!