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Leadership Thought #401 – Your Pride Can Get You In Trouble

August 24, 2012

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Pride can be a major obstacle in business.

Imagine if someone was rushed to the Emergency Room of a hospital with severe symptoms of something wrong only to tell the doctor that that it was no big deal and then selectively share information about their true physical state.   You would think this person was being irresponsible with their health (and with the hospital’s resources).  This happens all the time in business.  Leaders let their pride and ego get in the way. It prevents them from being forthright and honest at the very times they most need to be.   I have seen many businesses go down the tubes that didn’t have to because the leader was slow to act, slow to ask for help, and unwilling to face reality.   Avoidance never works as a business (or life) strategy.

I have learned to listen skeptically when I hear someone say, “it’s no big deal”, “we’ll be okay” or “failure isn’t an option.”  Just as a body has vital signs that you check to get a baseline on someone’s health, a business has key performance indicators that signal when things are okay and when something is wrong:


As the owner of a company that has been around for more than a few years, if you must put your own money into a business to keep it solvent then there is a major problem with your business model.  Of course, there may be extraordinary situations where this could happen, but it should be the exception not the rule.  If a bank won’t lend you money or extend your line of credit when needed, you should take a step back and reflect on what you are doing.   Sadly, I’ve seen individuals lose all the wealth they have saved over a lifetime trying to bail out a business that was in crisis mode, unsustainable, or that shouldn’t have been saved.  Unfortunately, this happens more often and quickly than you think.

All businesses hit a bump in the road at some point – it is to be expected.  The sooner you see this coming and own up to your circumstances, the better.  The numbers don’t lie unless you manipulate them to.   The good news is that there are many resources at your disposal once you decide to come clean about your circumstances.   More people than you think have a stake in your success.  It could be your professional advisors, your bank, business colleagues, peers, strategic partners, friends, long-term clients, and even members of your management team.   Most people will want to help you out if you cut through the BS, tell them the truth, and ask for help.

Don’t let your pride become an obstacle to your survival or an impediment to your success.  There is a difference between being self-reliant and being reckless.  Sometimes you have to risk being vulnerable and letting down your guard.   I’ve yet to see a business problem that can’t be solved if you have enough time to solve it and the right people working on it.  The solution may not always be the one you want it to be, but it will be better than no solution at all or having your fate decided by someone else. Your pride can, and will, get you in trouble if you are not careful.