There is one massive problem with achieving teamwork and that’s our human inclination to look after Number One.
We all have an ego, and our ego has one distinct and very important job – to protect us. It sits there all day looking for moments when we might be under threat and activating our fight or flight system if it thinks we ARE under threat. This vital part of us is attached to the oldest and most established part of our reptilian brain which is responsible for instinct and survival. Unfortunately for us, it can’t really tell the difference between an unkind word, a commuter taxi, and a saber-toothed tiger. That’s where WE come in.
We, the adult, are separate from our ego. We’re not one and the same. This is an important distinction that many people never really make. When we realise that this is the case and that our ego is more child than adult, then we can acknowledge its fears and have a conversation with it. We can ascertain whether it has a valid point and act appropriately according to the size of the threat.
If we’re part of a team, assessing the concerns of our ego and acting appropriately is an absolute MUST. As soon as our ego comes online, the way we think, speak and act ceases to be about the greater good and starts to orient more towards looking after Number One. That generally can’t go anywhere good or productive.
As soon as our egos come online, it prompts a physiological response within our body. Adrenaline is released which increases our heart rate and dilates our blood vessels to allow more blood to circulate. We breathe faster to get more oxygen into our system. Our blood is diverted away from certain bodily functions and towards major muscle groups. All in case we need to physically respond to the threat.
When we’re taught to count to 10 before we respond, it’s to ride out this initial physiological reaction so that we can respond intelligently! In this day and age, there are few instances where we actually need to physically respond, and re-harnessing our brains that have been hijacked by our ego is far more important! As soon as you’re aware ego is present in the conversation, it’s better to take a break or come back later.
The first key is self-management. This requires that we examine what it physically feels like when our ego perks its ears up and comes online. For some, it’s a butterfly spike in your chest or gut. For others, their cheeks get warm. We’re all individuals – what is it for you?
The second key, once we’ve identified this warning flag, is to prompt ourselves to assess what our ego has to say and whether we need to react or respond. Because our egos can be overreactive, there’s a lot that can be discarded. We don’t need to hook our energy and thinking up to many of the things our ego thinks we do. Taxis on the way to work. That thing that person said in that way….again. So much of it we can let go if we acknowledge that we, as adults, hold the power to decide.
When we acknowledge that our egos are a primal part of us and we have the option to take their response as advisory rather than executive, we can start to make more mature decisions that better impact our ability to be part of and to lead a productive team.
We have the option to discard much of what our egos react to and to move forward with more powerful responses such as understanding and compassion. Not everything deserves the energy we allocate to it. This realization is a powerful one that allows us to reclaim ourselves and streamline our input, disconnecting from many things that snag us up and make us ineffective and unproductive.
Learning to delay our response to our ego spiking long enough to make an executive decision isn’t always easy and it definitely takes practice. But it’s one of the most important things we can do for ourselves and our team.
You cannot lead from a position of ego. You can only manage and direct. To build a team that can support and trust you, you must lead rather than manage. Leadership comes from a place of authenticity and truth. Strangely, the fallibility and humanness of that position is exactly what connects your team to you and makes your bond stronger.
Focus this week on identifying the spike as your ego comes online. Assess. Decide. Act.
by Christen Killick
February 19th, 2019