How good is your ego management? How often do you allow your ego to cloud your judgement of what’s really happening or what you really want to achieve?
Ego versus Outcome (Audio)
How big is your ego? How often does it “get you into trouble”? Or at least have you reacted spontaneously to something that you considered “affronting” only to regret that impetuosity afterwards? How well can you control your ego, so it doesn’t get in the way?
Ego management of free reign?
I have been working in Singapore for a number of days and today a few of my local clients chastised me that it was Tuesday already and they hadn’t seen this week’s blog yet. Well I guess I better get on with it…. And I’ve wanted to write about this topic for a while now. So here goes.
Of course our ego is a fundamental driver of who we are and how we see ourselves. It forms a large part of our “left brain mind chatter” and represents what I have on a few occasion referred to as “mini me”. It is the driver behind our wanting to be recognized – our need for significance, it sees to it that we don’t allow ourselves to be “slighted” and it makes sure that our self worth is maintained.
Naturally, we all need a healthy ego, don’t we? It is a fundamental part of our competitive drive which in our tough business world today ensures that we remain competitive. However, how much is “healthy”? And when is it not enough? And when might it be too much? What is the right balance?
Rational and Irrational
I’m sure you’ll also agree with me that our ego can get us into quite some deep water, when we give it too much free reign and allow it together with our emotions to take us where we would normally never go. We can probably all remember as youngsters or as adolescents where we got ourselves into “a fight” or at least a very significant argument. If we thought about it afterwards, wasn’t the trigger or cause often something quite trivial but nonetheless maybe something we took quite personally? I call that allowing the ego to rule.
As adults and certainly as leaders of others, we have probably learned how to be more “rational” and to keep our ego in check, right? But every now and then we can still fall back into such situations where we “lose that control”, can’t we? Particularly if we may have imbibed on a little too much alcohol or “social group interaction” – perhaps at the footy or so?
Example of good ego management
You know that I work with many clients in the space of defining and managing their careers. I have been coaching a client in Europe through a massive “fork in their road” for a while now. We have been preparing together for an impending case of So you got shafted… for quite a time and this week it finally came to pass. His role was made redundant. (Please notice that I didn’t say he was made redundant)
This client has driven and enjoyed an extremely successful decade of very significant business outcomes with this organisation, which suddenly came to an end simply through the arrival of a new boss….. (You know how many people I have encountered that still believe there is such a thing as a “safe job”? No matter what your job is, and at what level, all it takes is a merger or acquisition or sale of a company or as in this case, a new boss, and all of a sudden everything can look completely different, can’t it? Yet people will still be complacent instead of actively practicing Who is driving your bus?
Anyway, his success was in no small part attributable to his insatiable hunger to achieve – all the time. Very sophisticated and being very much in control, my client is a truly “type A” personality without the ability to know “when is enough”. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that such ongoing success is rarely apparent without being driven by more than a “healthy ego”, right?
So his challenge for this impending “negotiation” (and in the preparations leading up to it) was to manage his ego – to get it out of the way. Ego in such negotiations allows the emotional clouding of judgment and very often interferes with the outcomes that could have been achieved.
In the preparation, we needed to focus heavily on avoiding the “heat” or blood pressure to intervene. Well, he did absolutely great. He was a cool as a cucumber and he got a great outcome. He acknowledged afterwards how important that ego management had been for him. He could concentrate with full attention on the subtleties and was firmly in control, which even unnerved the 3 managers “trying to do him in”.
Great example, isn’t it? So have a quick think. What other examples can you think of where keeping ego in control resulted in a better outcome? Or conversely, perhaps an even better example or lesson would be where you lost your advantage because you did let your ego too much leeway? I can think of a number.
In the management and leadership context, I know that the management of ego plays an important part in driving successful outcomes, or conversely, provides examples of where it simply gets in the way. In my blog Leading from behind I speak about the achievement of better outcomes through others by having them drive YOUR initiatives for THEIR reasons. This approach should include them collecting the accolades, which of course necessitates your ego allowing that. I probably don’t need to remind you how rare that can be in corporate life today, where in the hustle and bustle of “getting ahead” it’s often a case of “everyone for himself”.
I believe it takes quite some ‘elegance of leadership” to adopt the approach I’m suggesting. We have all no doubt experienced the authoritarian (did I say Draconian?) leader who largely works on the basis of “be reasonable – see it my way”, right? Would you agree that (quite remarkably) such styles still exist today and that they are often ego driven (perhaps without the “perpetrator” even being aware of that?) There is often very little support for their decisions or outcomes, is there?
Conversely, when we are led by someone who has a more supportive style that allows us to use our initiative and our creativity to deliver something bigger that normal, and allows us to “have a go” without all the stifling rules and restrictions, how much better can we be?
Left versus Right brain
In my blog The left brain and the right brain I speak about the ego fuelled “left brain mind chatter”, versus the more “big picture oriented” right brain that looks at things more holistically and isn’t worried about “being slighted” or other less critical issues. Reason prevails in the right brain.
In my blog Using “the Gap” to reframe yourself I speak about giving yourself a bit of space (in the gap or pause) to consider your initial response to something before you make it and to ask yourself in that pause what your intended outcome is and whether the intended response will help you or hinder you in its achievement. Just a few seconds of consideration, to step back as it were, may be the difference between “rushing in” and making the right call.
So as so often, we have some choices, don’t we? Particularly as a leader of others, I would urge you to choose the right brain, as outlined in the previous paragraph more often than you do the left brain. That you choose the outcome over the ego. That you allow yourself an ego check that will help you choose the right response and assure the better outcome more often that not.
You can you know? Every time. What if you could?
Tyrone Morris says
Much appreciated Heiner. I have NO IDEA what last Friday would have felt like if WE hadn’t been working together in the way that we have. My sincere thanks go out to you. Warm regards. Tyrone