Why Ego Doesn’t Have A Seat At My Table in 2022
By Taja Dockendorf, the founder and creative director of Pulp+Wire, a 100% founded and run CPG branding and marketing agency in Portland ME.
As the founder and creative director of a 100% female-run and owned CPG branding agency and investor in a few brands of my own, I place a high value on fostering growth and opportunities within each relationship I lead. It is a delicate and powerful dance balancing compassion and empathy with growth and goals. But I’ve never needed to sacrifice one over the other because I understand something very simple: ego has no place at the table when you aim to empower those around you.
Instead, lead with truth.
Relationships are made up of different people, perspectives, and approaches but at the end of the day, you are a team with the same goal. So, how do you lead with truth, push ego aside, and find a path forward?
Know Perspective Plays A Role
My success stemmed from reinventing the old-school mentality that your boss was responsible for telling you how to grow and plotting the part you would play in the ultimate success of the company. It was my perspective shift that set the stage for how my employees could perceive their roles, their growth, and ultimately, success. Of course, not every leader has the perspective or trust to let their employees choose their own adventure when it comes to the growth of their company. The truth is, by creating a work environment that truly allows balance of work, structure, families, and personal interests to co-exist benefits everyone. I don’t coddle my employees nor do I grant their every wish, but I do always create space for open, honest, and productive conversation through empathy, directness, and feedback.
Know Which Questions To Ask
In order to find a solution to any problem, be it professional or personal, I encourage the people around me to ask themselves to find their why; what fuels them, who do they want to become and what are they hungry to learn more about? I ask these three specific questions because the level of empowerment you provide stems from self-reflection. Empowerment doesn’t happen through telling each one of my employees what their goals or trajectory – personal or professional – should be. It comes from them telling me what, where, and who they want to do, go, and be. Very simply, I am going to show up for you as a leader and mentor, how are you going to show up for me and the team to keep us moving toward our collective goals?
Once you have asked the questions and they have provided their answers, remember to ask them how they feel you can best support them to successfully obtain their goal. Providing resources that have helped you in the past or offering introductions to connections that are a good fit is a great start.
Anytime I bring on a new team member to my agency I have them take the Clifton Strengths test. This allows new employees, the rest of my team, as well as myself, to know exactly where we all fit, how we all give value, how we can all challenge each other to be the best versions of ourselves and create better strategies for the future. And while we all have more than the 5 out of 35 strengths defined in the Strengths Finder, I do find this tool useful for team empowerment, self-reflection, and goals-based leadership.
Know Your Relationship With Yourself
Knowing the right questions and being empathic to perspectives are great tools to have as a leader but, your external relationships will only thrive as much as the internal ones you have with yourself. For me, knowing when to allow creativity to take over and flow is equally as important as knowing when it’s time to shut down, unplug and call it a day. I know that the relationship with myself is best nurtured and learned from when I take a moment to slow down, a quiet drive to work, or after a good restful sleep. It’s about being the best version of myself and also showing up as human so that I can create space for others I lead to do the same.
And Lastly When and How To Be Present
As a leader I know fostering empowerment and growth for those I lead starts with me. It begins with me showing up for myself and being present for my team and brands, letting ego sit outside the door, and driving towards a solution. When you get familiar and comfortable with your authentic truth this helps your team find their authentic truth. When able to put ego aside, listen, and be heard we are all able to reach our goals more effectively, successfully and find our personal and professional paths forward.