July 8, 2021 Guest Author

Controlling Your Three E’s—Ego, Emotions, Energy

Powerful relationships can be instrumental to your success and to the success of your company. But, as you almost certainly know, it takes time and effort to build those relationships. Trust is built over time as you learn more about your relationships and deliver support consistently.

People will rarely trust you simply because you tell them you’re trustworthy—you’ve got to demonstrate to others that they can count on you, with repeated actions.

Sometimes, however, we act in ways that don’t serve our interests. Here’s some advice we’ve gathered over time from top entrepreneurs about how to overcome three of the biggest roadblocks in the path to building great business relationships.

Hurting our own chances at success

We see that the struggle to build strong business relationships is often harder than it needs to be largely because of ourselves—that we get in our own way unnecessarily.

Based on our observations, the three most common ways entrepreneurs tend to sabotage their own efforts to create great relationships are needing to have their egos stroked, not being in control of their emotions and displaying a noticeable lack of energy (see Exhibit 1).


Three Ways to Self-Sabotage Your Business Relationships

Let’s look at each more closely.

Your ego

Sometimes, business owners are more concerned with being right than achieving their goals. Sometimes, they want recognition even though it can cost them part of their agenda.

We think these are big mistakes. In such situations, entrepreneurs can easily sacrifice their desired outcomes—and thereby give up a victory—just to boost their egos and feel self- righteous.

In stark contrast, many highly successful entrepreneurs we know are extremely disciplined about staying focused on the best possible outcomes over having their egos stroked. Being told how great they are and getting credit for their actions are meaningless compared with generating the big results they seek.

Achieving this type of discipline and focus is no small feat. It can be easy to let our egos get the better of us. Social reinforcement of our self-image, for example, is a powerful reward for most people. That can be especially true if you feel you are someone who has accomplished big things.

But ego commonly conflicts with getting ideal outcomes—such as getting a better price when you sell your company, having your business relationships introduce you to people who can make you more successful and attaining the loyalty of your employees.

Top entrepreneurs are able to push ego aside not because doing so comes naturally to them—but rather, because they make a conscious effort to emphasize and focus on others and not themselves. This leaves very little space for their own ego to take over and drive the situation.

Important: Other people’s egos can actually help you get what you want in certain situations. Positive recognition and “ego stroking” may be very important to some of your business relationships. They may want to be perceived as the alpha. For some, it’s “proof” that they are big shots in the big leagues.

If so, you can use their need for ego stroking to your advantage in negotiations and other situations. Simply look for qualities, attributes and capabilities in these people that you find to be impressive—then make sure they know that you see their positive features and successes.

Out-of-control emotions

Because of some of the actions your business relationships take and the statements they make, there will be times during business situations where you feel angry, frustrated, discouraged, anxious and so on.

Your feelings may be completely justified. However, you cannot let them translate into actions that diminish your ability to create or enhance powerful relationships. Out-of-control negative emotions emanating from you can ruin your ability to build rapport that can be useful in helping you achieve greater success.

Succumbing to emotional reactions usually means you are not thinking things through as well or as clearly as you can. Consequently, you are probably going to make bad judgments that will only further complicate matters.

When negative emotions get the better of you, a business situation can quickly spiral downward. Say you are frustrated with your business partner. You are not thinking clearly, and you say something that antagonizes her, diminishing the chances of getting what you want. If what you said is something you cannot easily take back, it could take a long time to repair the relationship.

Among entrepreneurs, one of the more common adverse emotional reactions is anger. Getting angry is a fairly common occurrence in intense business environments. But angry individuals tend to overreact, blowing issues out of proportion and distracting from important considerations at hand. Some business owners mistakenly see angry outbursts as a sign of their power. They think ranting and raving shows everyone they are in charge. The reality: Anger usually demonstrates helplessness and frustration. That means you need to keep your anger in check and deal with situations in a calm, objective and disciplined manner.

One key to successfully mitigating strong emotions: Don’t take what the other person says personally. You never want to allow someone else to push your buttons or pull your strings.

As much as possible, stay calm and poised. This conveys that you are in control of your life, and it can help deescalate overwrought situations in which others are tense and acting out.

Pro tip: One of the best ways to respond to anger is to not respond at all. Such a reaction can be very unsettling—for example, it will commonly make the hothead even hotter. If you’re then able to show some alignment of their goals and your goals, or deliver added value, you will probably be seen as even more useful to them. The more useful they see you as, the more likely they’ll be receptive to ways to help you achieve your goals and agenda. In short, think of their uncontrolled emotions as opportunities to make yourself essential to their aims.

A lack of energy

People can be drawn to you because of your high energy and can-do perspective. But they are likely to move away from you if you exhibit low energy and a “can’t do” attitude.

In nearly all business situations, you need to be upbeat and positive. Your energy level needs to be high. Ultimately, your self-assurance is a big factor in your ability to persevere in relationships and bring others into your orbit.

Think about it from the perspective of leadership. If you are not excited about your company’s mission and strategy, why would anyone working for you be motivated to give it their all? Why would potential alliance partners want to join up with you?

This carries over to areas such as negotiations and networking. In making a deal with someone—for example, someone buying your company—you want to be tremendously excited about your business’s prospects. This will make the other side want to do the deal even more. In networking, you want to be seen as successful and energized, since other businesspeople tend to gravitate to people with those traits.


Caution: If you are so upbeat and positive that you’re over the top, you may not be taken seriously. If there are complications and challenges in a business situation, being outlandishly and unrealistically optimistic will only hurt your credibility in the eyes of others. Your better approach is to set out the specific complications, reiterate your vision or solutions, and be very reassuring that following your recommendations will produce the desired outcomes.


You can be your own worst enemy in your pursuit of strong business relationships that can fuel your success. The good news: You can take concrete steps to avoid mistakes and keep yourself on the right path. When you keep your ego in check, control your emotions, and approach situations with the appropriate amount of energy and enthusiasm, you can truly set the stage for business relationships that can boost your bottom line.