Feeling pride in your business is powerful. It drives engagement, enthusiasm, and quality output from teams. These are excellent ingredients for a strong culture that brings out the best in everyone. But if leaders aren’t careful, that pride can mutate into what I sometimes refer to as “Corporate Vanity,” which may stifle success.
“We’ve been in business for over 100 years and always figure out how to come out on top.”
“We are the disruptors in the industry”
“We have the best team/products/services, in the business”
In many ways, these statements are affirmations of what’s great about a company. Being confident in the future, expressing optimism, and planning for success is incredibly valuable. But when healthy expressions of pride in your accomplishments aren’t tempered with appropriate doses of reflection about what might be inaccurate about such statements, it causes problems. Then past performance doesn’t automatically become future performance and the self-proclaimed disrupters get disrupted.
Addressing the issue doesn’t require humility, though a dose of that won’t hurt you. Preventing corporate vanity from negatively impacting your business requires leaders to do two things:
Question your assumptions about your competitor’s strengths.
I’ve seen leaders with a healthy respect for what the competition does well, and leaders who dismiss the competition as inferior, despite losing ground to them. Even if you think a competitor’s business practice or approach is poor, there may be something important to learn from the success they are having with customers who could have been yours.
Fight Confirmation Bias.
We all have biases. The key is ensuring that those biases don’t cause you to miss or ignore evidence that suggests you may be wrong. It becomes a big problem for leaders when they are defensive about having their positions questioned. Pay close attention when others present an opposing point of view and instead of trying to combat the idea, examine it for why it may be right.
I’ll reiterate that enthusiasm and pride in a company can drive productivity, innovation, and many salutary benefits. As a leader, it’s your job to foster and promote the discussions that support corporate pride and prevent it from becoming corporate vanity.