On Ego and Change.

On Ego and Change.

There’s a great article in the Wall Street Journal today about NFL coach Andy Reid, who is taking the Kansas City Chiefs to Super Bowl LIV in Miami this weekend.

The author, Andrew Beaton, focuses on two of Coach Reid’s unique abilities. He thinks like an outsider and he doesn’t have an ego. He’s been a head coach in the NFL for 21 years and made the playoffs 15 times.

Those familiar with him say the reason he’s successful because “he’s willing to incorporate unusual, often unpopular perspectives.”

I never played football and I know enough to watch and enjoy the game, so I can’t add anything to the conversation about his unique offensive style, how he hired college coaches with playbooks that were not only unconventional but often mocked in the NFL, etc.

Beaton says, “Reid didn’t just tolerate these newfangled ideas. He actively sought them out and learned them better than almost anyone in is position.”

In your professional practice, how willing are you to embrace new ideas and learn them better than anyone else in your niche? How obsessed are you at being the best at getting better?

How much of your practice is about you? Whom do you really serve? Years ago, in 2006, we made our mission “to serve others.” It’s inspiring to see other doctors around the world embrace this same philosophy, sometimes word-for-word, and I take no credit for its inception. My team and marketplace helped forge our purpose. Shelving my ego meant allowing the market and all of the stakeholders in my business to tell me what it wanted.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, isn’t known for having a small ego. This is part of his persona, but he said, and I’m paraphrasing, “It doesn’t matter what I want. It doesn’t matter what the players want. The only thing that matters is what our fans want. Their vote is the only one that counts.”

Cuban shelved his ego when he said this many years ago, and he’s right.

When you consider the top-performers in any industry, profession or niche, they are people who are capable of shelving their ego. They look for new ways to kill off some of their best-loved ideas. They embrace new things and learn faster and better than the competition.

Sure, there are examples of CEOs, athletes and success stories in every niche where larger-than-life personalities make it big and have egos to match. Yet, they almost never sustain a two-decade career at the top and remain liked and respected by others.

Those who are successful don’t become nice people after they’ve achieved some level of success, but rather they achieve and succeed because they are nice; because they don’t have an ego.

Reid illustrates this truth. His players and coaches love working with him. He doesn’t make anything about him, unless it’s taking the blame for something that went wrong.

There are too many sports analogies in life to list here. I could teach a semester-long course in the application of these principles both on and off the field. The big questions for you and your team remain:

  • How resilient are we at overcoming and adapting to change?
  • How often do our egos get in the way?
  • What sunk-cost and status-quo biases need to be set on fire in the business?
  • What obstacles can be turned into opportunities when we embrace change and our reality?
Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.