In a new online article for Fast Company, Scott and Ken Blanchard identify one of the biggest barriers to people working together effectively.
The culprit? The human ego.
As they explain, “When people get caught up in their egos, it erodes their effectiveness. That’s because the combination of false pride and self-doubt created by an overactive ego gives people a distorted image of their own importance. When that happens, people see themselves as the center of the universe and they begin to put their own agenda, safety, status, and gratification ahead of those affected by their thoughts and actions.”
Fortunately, the two Blanchards share a four-step process that can help keep an overactive ego in place.
Name it and claim it—taking a page from popular 12-step programs, the Blanchards describe a well-known opening they use when they conduct “Egos Anonymous” meetings for senior executive groups. They have the executives, in turn, share the last time they let their egos get in the way of their leadership effectiveness. What they usually find is that the ego-driven episodes are a result of fear or false pride. By having the leaders “name and claim” the ways that their ego has derailed their behavior in the past, they give the leaders their first tool to begin to neutralize the ego’s power.
Practice humility—another way to recalibrate an overactive ego at work is to practice humility. For a leader, this means recognizing that it is not all about you; it’s about the people you serve and what they need. To illustrate their point, the Blanchards use a great story from fellow consultant Jim Collins on how to tell the difference between serving and self-serving leaders. As Collins describes it, “When things are going well for self-serving leaders, they will look in the mirror, beat their chests, and tell themselves how good they are. When things go wrong, they look out the window and blame everyone else. On the other hand, when things go well for great leaders, they look out the window and give everyone else the credit. When things go wrong, these serving leaders look in the mirror and ask themselves, ‘What could I have done differently?’”
Find truth tellers in your life—these people are essential to a leader, “Especially as you climb into the higher ranks of an organization,” explain the authors, “where honest feedback becomes scarce and everyone treads lightly. These are the people who know you well, don’t have anything to gain from being less than honest with you, and who you can count on to give you the straight scoop.”
Be a learner—the final strategy the Blanchards recommend for rebalancing your ego is to become a continual learner. You need to be open to learning from other people and listening to them. For leaders who are used to being the smartest person in the room, they recommend starting a joint project with someone who has the skills and energy to do what the leader doesn’t know how to do yet. It’s a great way to discover what it’s like to be a learner again.
Don’t let your ego derail your career
Talent, competitive drive, and confidence are the skills that often ear-mark people for leadership positions. If balanced with a healthy dose of reality and humility, these skills can lead to a long and successful career that benefits the leader and the organizations they serve. Unchecked, they lead to self-centered behavior and a stunted career path. To accomplish great things, you are going to need the cooperation and talents of other individuals.
So name your ego lapses. Practice humility. Invite honest feedback. Learn from others. These practices will not only eliminate your blind spots, they’ll also open the way for you to accomplish more for yourself and others.
To read the complete article, check out Don’t Let Your Ego Hijack Your Leadership Effectiveness on Scott and Ken Blanchard’s page at Fast Company.