Ever seen a good, live orchestra performance? Each musician totally involved in his or her delivery, yet conscious of the overall goal of a successful group performance? The intensity of the conductor, bent on an excellent overall programme delivery? The better each musician plays, the more successful is the conductor in his objective.
Now let’s consider a parallel in a very powerful emotional state: the ego. Each musician represents an ‘ego’, a self-belief that he/she is the best in his or her role, delivered through a specific musical instrument.
The conductor represents the ego of the master self-belief of being the best in delivering the entire programme.
Ego has its own energy
Ego is real. Everyone has one. Everyone needs one – ego carries tremendous energy, drive and conviction. It has its downsides, but since everyone has it and responds to life through it, it really would be pointless to run it down as something bad, undesirable. Deep down, nobody buys that.
So, what if we could view ego not as self-centeredness but a self-belief that can achieve great results, given its energy? And what if we could channelise the ego energies within a team towards highly productive, desirable outcomes?
The person attempting to harness the ego energy within his team, however, has to believe, first, that such ego is all right and second, that he/she has one too. And that no ego is better than or superior to the other, but in a team combination, can deliver brilliantly in fulfilling a specific goal (see box).
The word ‘ego’, Latin for ‘I’, is used to mean a person’s sense of self. Introduced as a term by Sigmund Freud, it has often been viewed negatively. But what is wrong with holding a healthy sense of self?
Channelising egos effectively
If one can hold one’s ego in check and then really look at what it is that triggers the other person’s ego drive, one gains valuable knowledge of what buttons to push in order to get the best out of that person. Positive reinforcement, you know. Broaden that to the belief that every person in a team brings a critical value(s) to the table.
It is the team manager’s responsibility to ensure that her team’s and even her own egos don’t get tangled. How do you do that? By understanding a fundamental truth: people are driven in any situation by what’s in it for them. You can gain a lot by helping each member see what’s in it for each of them, since for each, the inspiration buttons are different. Another truth: a person with strong ego will never underperform. Her ego will never allow that.
What’s in it for you, the manager? That lies in your end objective on each job and on your overall responsibility. Surely your objectives and responsibilities are larger than any of your reporting team member’s? So it’s in your own interest to have each team member contributing his/her best towards your deliverables. So then, there’s no conflict.
And yet, ego clashes between managers and team members, and between team members themselves, are common. You know why? Ego is fundamentally defensive – no self-believing person is totally confident of his self-belief. Don’t we all have our moments of doubts on acceptance?
Pushing the right buttons
If you can encourage and strengthen your team members’ self-belief by pushing the right buttons, knowing this cannot diminish your importance in any way, you’ve got a winning team on your side. You can even curb team ego clashes by creating in each member the conviction that there’s something specifically important he/she brings to the table.
Effective team management is about doing whatever it takes to accomplish your objective. Remember the conductor of the orchestra. His success cannot be overshadowed by any single musician’s success. Your ego energy cannot be de-linked from your team’s ego energies. The latter feeds the former.