Everything in this post applies to any career field, but I am targeting the DFIR field. But first, right out of the gate, I am going to blame fantasy Hollywood movies for many of the failures of leadership in the real world. To grow up watching a fantasy movie where a hero saves the day creates a subconscious belief that in order to be a leader or the hero, you must act like the typical hero in the last action movie you watched. These movie characters usually have a big ego, know everything, and never admit to being wrong. Every person thinking this way is doomed to fail even before making their first decision in a leadership role or when presenting findings of their analysis.
How does this apply to you?
Your entire reputation, career, self-esteem, professionalism, and honor depends upon this specific point: Control your ego or your ego will ruin you in a New York Minute. You are a danger to others if your ego controls you.
Some of the instances where your ego will ruin you include giving the wrong information from your analysis, testifying to “facts” that were incorrect, wrecking your credibility among peers, and potentially perjuring yourself in court testimony. You might be doing great keeping your ego in check up until this point but keeping your ego in check is not a one-time act. It is an every-minute conscious effort, more so for some than others.
You must keep it in check all the time and remind yourself of each decision and choice that you make. Ask yourself, “ Is this decision based on my ego or the totality of the circumstances ?”.
I broke down four boxes of checking your ego to help visualize where you may be at any given point. Keep in mind that you can be in any of these boxes and can instantly jump to another. THIS IS GOOD!! If you realize that you are in a bad box, there is nothing keeping you there, even in the middle of direct questioning by your boss, the court, or your best buddy. Get out of the red and into the green!
I know that I am wrong, but I will claim to be right no matter what
We all know someone like this. They claim to be “right”, but you know that they are wrong, they know that they are wrong, and you know that they know you know they are wrong (you get the point..). You show the facts. You make your case. You argue and argue. You lay out everything that absolutely shows that they are wrong. Yet not only will they not admit it, but they will keep saying they are right.
Their ego is not going to back down. They are committed to falsehood to the end.
This is the worst ego. Personally, it is difficult to even speak to these people because without having to exactly say it, they are liars. They know that they are wrong, yet not only not admit, but keep saying they are right. Doing this on the stand in court could wind up with sanctions or jail time. Doing this to your boss could end up losing your job. Friends don’t like it either.
I know that I am right, and I don’t want to hear that I am wrong
A little better than the above is the person who knows they are right but refuses to look at any information that may prove them wrong. Their ego is afraid of being wrong and in order to avoid being proven wrong, simply refuse to allow that opportunity to prove it.
Unfortunately, the end result of loss of credibility for both of these is the same, so in that respect, it's not a better box to be in.
I am right but open to new ideas
When we believe that we are right, but also open to new information that may show otherwise, we have our ego in check. This is the safest place to be at any point in your career. On any given day, I give an answer or opinion on a topic believing that I am right. And with many of these opinions, I will spend a few minutes to double-check that I gave the right information. This isn’t about me doubting myself, it is about making sure my ego isn’t speaking for me. And when I find that I gave the wrong information, I correct it.
If you want to be the trusted “expert”, you need to be in this box. When you are known as this type of person, you will be asked for your opinion and others will hang on to your words because they know that you are either spot on and if not, will find out and correct yourself. Doing this will probably make you feel like you are not an expert, but that is kind of the point of being the expert*.
I don’t know, but I am open to learning
When you don’t know something and you are willing to admit it, this is the next best box to be in. I say the “next best” because this is when you don’t know something whereas in the previous box, you know the topic. However, when you can that you don’t know but are open to learning to find out, this creates an instant trust factor.
In this DFIR field (actually, any aspect of life), we should strive to be bouncing between both of the “I know but am open to information” and “I do not know but open to learning” boxes.
Some strong-willed people (aka Type A) will set out on a mission and will forge ahead ignoring any new factors that invariably pop up. This could be good, but usually, it is not. Being committed to complete a task is admirable, but there are times when an unexpected factor comes into the task that affects what you need to do. This is where your ego comes into play. Do you blast forward as if nothing changed, or do reflect on the new information and make appropriate changes to your azimuth?
A real-life example would be testifying in court to a “fact” that you discovered. Under cross-examination, what would you do if you are given new information, including facts that actually show that you were wrong?
- Do you continue to state that your analysis was correct even in the face that you are wrong?
- Do you refuse to even look at the new information?
- Or do you state that you are open to reviewing the new information that may change your opinion?
- Or do you state you don’t know, but open to learning?
Keep your ego in check and this will keep your reputation on solid footing. Most important...this advice applies to life even more.