In the 7th and last in his series on the deadly sins of business, Neil Debenham looks at Pride and its impact on running a business.
There is a thin line between pride and arrogance. Pride in your work is an admirable quality which has enormous benefits for the business, but when it turns to arrogance, it is time to take stock and take a large slice of humble pie.
In ancient Greece, they used the word “hubris” to describe extreme or foolish pride. The best example I can think of is the hare in Aesop’s The Hare and the Tortoise story, where the hare is so confident of winning a race between the two of them that he decides to take a nap half way around. He loses the race.
How many times in your business and personal life have you said to yourself “we’ll walk this” only to be pipped to the post by an unlikely rival. It happens in new business pitches all the time. Company A talks about its achievements whilst company B lets the client do all the talking and wins the business. One of the powerful insights of business psychology is that listening is more important than speaking. Not only do you gain greater understanding, but you come across as more caring and committed. As my father used to say to me: “You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that ratio.”
Herb Kelleher, the now retired head of Southwest Airlines, believed that arrogance is the greatest danger to a successful company. He said: “A company is never more vulnerable to complacency than when it’s at the height of its success.”
Arrogance is officially defined as: making claims or pretensions to superior importance or rights; overbearingly assuming; insolently proud. We all know the signs when we see them, and we are sufficiently attuned to human emotions to recognise the difference between arrogance and pride or confidence.
There is nothing wrong with pride. In fact, I would wholeheartedly approve of taking pride in your work and your business. Shout out your successes and praise those who helped achieve them. We live in an age where customers are continually looking for reassurance to buy your products or services so be proud of your trustpilot rating or your industry awards. Also, don’t be harsh on confidence, People want to do business with people you know what they are doing. But whatever you do, don’t overclaim. As they say, under promising and over delivering is better than the other way round!
As John Monarch, the CEO of the logistics company Shipchain writes:
Over-promising is often instinctual. You just want to make people happy and promising them something great is an easy way to do it.
In reality, people actually prefer you just be honest with them and then meet or exceed the expectations you’ve set. Over-promising hurts your business’s credibility, it hurts your revenues, and it hurts your reputation.
With the advent of social media, it is so easy for customers to air their complaints on line. As well as damming remarks of Facebook and Twitter, irate customers also build websites with the express purpose of damaging your reputation. You can even buy domain names ending in .sucks!
Neil Debenham’s tips regarding pride in business are:
- Be proud of your work, but don’t become arrogant or overconfident.
- Under promise and over deliver. Surprise people with your service
- Never think you know it all. Life is a journey of learning and it’s never too late to discover new things
- Listen to people and ask questions. You’ll be better informed and appear more likeable
- Remember that arrogance is very self-centred and will blinker you to what is really going on in your business