We entrepreneurs have some interesting personality traits. Many of us are particularly hard charging. We are generally assertive and often have aggressive tendencies as well. Other descriptors might include a high sense of urgency, a less than accommodating nature and low empathy. We’re on a mission and we have no time to waste. We don’t have time for nonsense, and no patience for incompetence or perceived laziness. Here’s the danger with this combination of behaviors. We can sometimes become total, unadulterated a-holes.
Some entrepreneurs wear this moniker as a badge of honor. I don’t and I’ll bet you don’t want too either. Unfortunately, we may be in a position where our colleagues aren’t comfortable pointing out our “a-holeness.” So, here’s an A-hole Self-Test that we can perform to make certain we aren’t becoming one.
- Do I berate people – especially in front of others? This is an easy one. A-holes in this category can be screamers. They have a hair trigger and are easily infuriated. Rather than calmly having a conversation to solve the problem, they become loud and personalize their displeasure. Everyone who witnesses an incident like this wants to sink through the floor – whether they are the focus of the a-hole’s ire or not.
- Do I ignore people and fail to show sufficient appreciation? A-holes are ingrates. People do things for them without as much as a please or a thank-you. They have an entitlement mentality and can totally ignore those around them. Other accurate terms are self-centered and self-absorbed.
- Am I overly demanding and unreasonable with my expectations? There’s nothing wrong with pushing our team to excel. Stretch goals are fine and can be quite healthy. A-holes go above and beyond in this category – way beyond. Think about the boss that demands that his team work late on Friday night and all weekend to complete a project – but he goes home early and is nowhere to be found all weekend.
- Am I a backstabber? Backstabbers are sweet to our faces and then say and do terrible things behind our backs. Joe says to Tony, “I think you did a great job landing the Acme contract!” Then later he says to Isabel, “Tony got all the credit for the Acme contract, but he really didn’t have to work very hard to land it.” Why can’t Joe be gracious and have praise for Tony when he’s talking to Isabel and others?
- Am I insulting? A-holes seem to enjoy being mean and insulting. They make snide and cutting remarks. They run people down and tend to be cynical, taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others. I used to watch Don Imus on television. He had a morning show that could be funny. But he was one of the most insulting characters I’ve ever seen. He had no filter whatsoever and didn’t seem to care whether he hurt someone’s feelings with his comments.
- Do I take credit for the accomplishments of others? The best entrepreneurial leaders are quick to celebrate the accomplishments of their team members. They are gracious and acknowledge the contributions of others. A-holes will take credit for every positive result that occurs and point fingers at others when something less than positive happens.
- Am I condescending, rude and arrogant? The late Leona Helmsley was a wealthy real estate magnate in New York. She was known as the Queen of Mean and her infamous statement has become the national anthem for a-holes, “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” Do I think I’m better than everyone else and do I let others know?
- Am I conniving and constantly on the lookout for ways to screw other people? Yeah, you know the type. This person is always scheming and not in a nice way. A common statement might be, “You’ll never believe what I pulled off! I spoke with an ex-employee of our closest competitor and found out that the CEO has cancer. I dropped the hint to one of their customers that the company might be in trouble if the CEO must step down. I think they are going to move their business to us!” There’s going to be a special seat at the table for this guy in a very warm place one of these days!
Well, how did you do? Thankfully a-holes are few and far between and they are easy to spot. As we strive to build our organizations it’s always smart to beware of a-hole tendencies that can creep into our behavior. When this begins to occur, we need to immediately come to a screeching halt, turn around and run as fast as we can in the other direction.
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.