Pride has a bad reputation. I used to think it was a Canadian thing, but if you look at quotes on pride, they typically come with dire warnings no matter the country of origin. Pride comes right before you fall, fail, fool yourself and f… screw up. Pride is arrogant, egotistical and vain. Pride is lazy, loathsome and generally uninteresting, on and on it goes.
The thing is, I love the sense of pride I had last week when I sent my husband off to Umea, Sweden to present his thoughts on information design to an international gathering. I really like that mildly euphoric feeling that swells your chest and elicits a huge teeth-bearing grin that encompasses your face. I was overcome by a similar feeling later in the week as I watched a play put together by my daughter and her fellow students. The play, a musical production, left me amazed and in awe, at their cleverness, focus and imagination. I was pretty proud of their teacher too.
Pride is that wonderful emotion that keeps you focused on your job and attentive to details that know one will ever know you cared about, but will be evident in the work you produce. Pride is such a critical part of the joy we have in our work, that as employees and employers we always have to ask ourselves, are we proud of what we are doing? If not, then what needs to change?
I was asking a colleague to pass along a project she had started to another person and I could see she was not keen on my suggestion. To be honest, she looked crestfallen. When I raised the issue again she said that the project meant a lot to her. She had discovered a solution to a long-standing problem and wanted to see it through to the end. What she said was, “I want to complete this project and know that I accomplished something from start to finish.”
I had been gearing up to gently chastise her for taking on more projects than she could handle, but as I looked at her and reflected on all of the projects that we were managing, I realized that I would be making a critical error if I insisted. She had pride in her work. She quite correctly wanted to do a whole job. We were in the midst of a series of long projects that would stretch out over months and in many cases, years. Her statement reminded me of some basic elements of Lean business practices. In a nutshell, we are more productive and more engaged, more proud of our work when we complete whole jobs.
Imagine getting three people to build a blog. One person would be in charge of content, one in charge of visuals and design and the third would be responsible for the technical function of the website. Now have them build without talking to one another. How do you think the blog might work? Introduce a fourth character, the website owner. Think they will like what they find, probably not. In order for the website to meet the demands of form and function, there would have to be collaboration, a plan and a shared objective. Having pride in your work means investing in the process and the outcomes.
How much pride would you have in your work if you had clever content that was all but obscured by inappropriate graphics and images? What about a beautifully designed blog with rubbish for content or content that was out of step with the design? Better still; imagine how much pride you would have if you had no idea why you were doing what you were doing?
Now you might get the impression that I think pride always a good thing, but that’s not the case, while pride is an amazing motivator, it can also be an obstacle or even a complete barrier to accomplishment. When our pride prevents us from asking for help or taking action when it is required then the same emotion that brought euphoria can become an oppressive weight preventing us from moving forward and achieving success.
“I would always rather be happy than dignified.”
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Pride can also make us do things to meet other people’s standards, expectations or acceptance. This is one of the most pointless forms of pride because it requires so much effort and focus for things that mean so little to us. When it’s really out of control it makes us do things that are counter to our own interests, like stay in a marriage or job that makes us miserable.
“Too many people spend money they earned… to buy things they don’t want… to impress people that they don’t like.”
― Will Rogers
So do you love or hate pride most of the time? Does being proud strike you as noble or foolish?
“Image courtesy of panuruang / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”