in Communication, Leadership, Leading People, Leading Projects, Team Building

Team Performance: Keeping Ego at Bay

Ego is a strong emotion and often, success feeds it. As we evolve as professionals and accomplish more, we tend to accumulate beliefs about ourselves (and the world around us). Soon, we start looking at world from the lens of these beliefs and decide what is right or wrong. Unfortunately, our world view is often skewed when it is only seen from the lens of our egos and limited beliefs.

By definition, ego is a false and emotionally charged image of the self. At work place, personal egos between peers often result in situations where work takes a backseat. He thinks that she should have initiated that difficult conversation. She thinks why would he not initiate? If he delayed it by one week, why should I walk the extra mile and complete it on time? People in meetings try to protect their forts and drive meeting through their egos. They avoid confrontations and often resist change.

End result? Things don’t move and progress stalls.

Here is what works for me: When you encounter an ego situation, quiz your goals. Ask yourself (and others) this question: “Am I (are you) focusing on ‘who’ is right, or doing ‘what’ is right?”. In teams and projects, doing what is right (and actually doing it) is more important than proving who is right.

Secondly, while individual accomplishments are important for your self esteem, you need to check if they are helping the team. Higher technical proficiency or better individual traits are of no use if they don’t help the team achieve the desired outcomes. If you are known as a best designer or coder, but your projects still fail then being the best may not be as important.

Finally, business leaders need to keep a constant check on the ego-index of middle management. You can work hard to hire best people but if they are being led by ego-driven managers, their spirit and enthusiasm will quickly fade out. People who cannot manage their own egos are not the good ones to manage others.

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Join in the Conversation: Have you encountered ego situations at your work place? What advice would you share with a manager who is struggling to keep ego issues away in the team?

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  1. Nice article. I would suggest managers to just think about this in such situations: Becoming egoist is easy but who dares to take pain in keeping the ego at bay (for the sake of work) is actually more powerful person.

    • You nailed it Hasan – demonstrating ego is easy. But to have a reasonable view of the self and yet focus on others is what makes a person really powerful!

  2. Ego is a Latin word meaning “I”, cognate with the Greek “Εγώ (Ego)” meaning “I”, often used in English to mean the “self”, “identity” or other related concepts. [Ref:
    In a bilateral interaction between the two individuals, you eye yourself through your own “I” and the other through also your “I”. Similarly the other one eyes own self through that person’s “I” and eyes you also through that person’s “I”. When one sees self with one’s own “I”, what is seen is very different from what is seen by look at the other through own “I”.
    We also condition are mind to hold one’s own views as well as encourage to create one’s own independent thought-process to arrive at those views.
    The repetitive positive occurrences of that thought-process gradually transform these views into constructive thoughts whereas negative iterations help form hardened opinions.
    Also, the “I” dons different colors at different stages of a person’s life, and adopt different hues of a given color under different circumstances.
    All these, and everything else, known and written about EGO would only mean that it is so very difficult to dilute one’s own ego, if one has to hold on one’s, whether well-formulated or ill-conceived, views during the course of the interaction. Similarly the other person also may be holding onto the own views.
    You may fully or partly know or may not at all know the other person. The converse may also be true. However, the relationship may or may not be that of one-to-one, i.e. if you know the other person fully, it is not necessary that that person my know you fully.
    Now, imagine the number of permutations and combinations of these different “I”s that can dynamically happen when two persons interact.
    Many experts of psychology, human behavior and the management have provided volumes of classic treatises of the subject. The reviews of some pertinent ones also call for several blogs and several posts.
    However, from my own perspective as well as experiences, I would leave the way to handle mine or other’s ego to the merits of the given circumstances.
    I do not consider any one party a winner and the other a loser at the conclusion of an interaction, because even those situations are akin to quicksands.

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