Stuck on a Problem? Ask the Right Questions — and Get Out of Your Own Way!

Stuck on a Problem? Ask the Right Questions — and Get Out of Your Own Way!

"YOUR WAY" IS tied to your ego.

There is nothing wrong with having an ego; there is nothing wrong with feeling self-assured. Believing in your personal strengths and accomplishments has a lot to do with your success, and it’s good to be confident. But there is a fine line between self-assuredness and ego.

I say when E.G.O. kicks in, then your good gets kicked out. I use E.G.O. as an anacronym for Edging God Out.

The problems arise when your ego affects your decision-making, makes you angry or belligerent, turns you into a victim, an underdog, or it makes you feel superior and judgmental of others to justify your behavior. Your ego will also make you think that everything you are doing is correct and that nobody can do it better. That’s when you need to become aware of yourself and be able to pull back from your ego-driven management style and get out of your own way.

How do you know when you have lost the “good” in you and have fallen prey to your ego? The Kabbalist claim that there are “the five extensions of ego,” which are anger, control, judgement, pride and hate and you can see a form of them in the work you are doing.

Anger will show up when you have a feeling of loss or fear, or a lack of control. The loss of a client, the fear of not fulfilling an order correctly, or the lack of control when a supplier is running late. Everyone is against me, and I am going to show them who they are dealing with. Your anger can be aggressive, passive or assertive, but it’s the aggressive anger that does the most destruction.

Control. “If it’s going to get done, then I am going to have to do it myself.” If you’re an entrepreneur, then you already have the start-up/founder mentality running through your veins. That’s what got you to where you are, and your survival instinct is going to tell you to get back there. However, you have employees now, and they know your business as well as you do. They want to help; they want to succeed, too. If you are edging them out, then your ego is taking over.

Pride. “I know what I am doing!” Pride can cause you to spend months going in the wrong direction before changing course. The ego of pride can blind your decision-making process and your ability to see the flaw in the plan or in the execution of the plan. If you have stopped doing the good work of analyzing your moves, even when all signs point to change direction, then your ego is taking over.

Judgement. “We are better than they are.” I have seen a lot of money wasted by companies trying to create an enterprise system, only to later find one that fits their needs with less cost and less time wasted. Whether it’s a sales system, inventory system, payroll system or whatever. Knowing what you are good at and sticking to your core competencies and outsourcing the rest will help you save time and money.

Hate. “I hate doing business with that company or person.” Hate is a very strong word and if you use it enough then you will “hate” yourself right out of suppliers, vendors, employees, and customers.

Let me suggest a few quick anger-stopper to work with. Most people will go to “why”-based questions when things happen. Why did this happen, why aren’t I better, why did this employee let me down and so on. These are tear-down questions, dark questions, fault-finding questions, that will only fuel or escalate the five extensions of the ego.

The stronger questions that will build comradery, teamwork, employee or personal empowerment are your “what”-based questions. What just happened, what do we need to do, what do we need to improve on, what could have prevented this? All these and others are problem-solving questions, thought-provoking, solution-oriented questions that bring light to the process.

Once you are enlightened, you can resolve anything.

Peter Remington is an executive at Houston CityBook and also a business consultant and life coach. For more information on him and his Prepare 4 More, visit here, or email him directly at

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