I was recently re-reading The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. It is a great book with some simple but profound revelations about building teams. After this second reading, I have been thinking over the last piece of his pyramid – Ego. The real tip of his teamwork pyramid is ‘inattention to results’, but the premise is about status and ego. For some reason, the idea of ego has been rolling around in my head, and here is what I’ve come up with – again, I am no psychologist.
As I’ve reviewed before, it feels good to be recognized or rewarded for a job well done. That is part of our ego, the self-esteem boost we get from acknowledgement. Is it really possible to put that thrill aside in our hearts? I think yes, but it may depend on the loyalty of the team. We have to recognize that our egos might be getting in the way of progress and then reconcile ourselves to the overall good instead of our own personal agendas. This is not always as hard as it sounds. As a mother, I am more than willing to put myself last in line for my children’s needs, without hesitation or question. If you look at critical teams like military units or surgical teams, they may have a similarly strong bond, which makes forfeiting ego easy. Not every team (I submit, the overwhelming majority) has that type of cohesiveness. So then what?
This is where the conscious effort has to come into play. We, as leaders, may have to set the example and sacrifice first, a fairly common occurrence and expectation in my opinion. We also have to watch the interaction of ego between members of our team. If one team member’s ego is in the way, it may not be as obvious as someone demanding to be first or get the blue ribbon. There may be subtle or subconscious indicators like a complete dismissal of other ideas. I have found if someone is unwilling to listen to any other course of action but his or her own, he or she is relying and asserting their own knowledge above all others. If you were to confront this person about their ego, he or she would probably have no clue what you were talking about; so one must tread lightly. The bottom line is, we all have to give up part of our ego in order to be receptive to others and make a strong team. As leaders, be on the lookout for member egos and understand you may have to manipulate them to accomplish the goal.
CEO, The Professional Development Team