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How Does Your Ego Impact How You Show Up Each Day?
I know when I hear the word “ego” many thoughts and images come to mind. I think of certain people or specific actions (mostly negative). It makes perfect sense how those people or those actions could lead to a lack of success. But the truth of the matter is that we all have an ego. What’s more, ego doesn’t always have negative characteristics either. Take for example, the person who spends all of her free time working for a particular charity. How could that possibly be of the ego? Well…perhaps the time they are putting in is for public recognition, to get a job in that field, or to boost their self-esteem. How authentic is the work for charity when the intention is self-promoting? Debbie Ford shared an interesting reflection on the ego. She said,
“The wounded ego must hide all that we believe is unacceptable about ourselves. To accomplish this task, it constructs a mask to prove to others that we are not as defective inferior, worthless, and bad as we might fear we are. None of us likes to admit that we have these flaws and insecurities, so to hide them, we create a persona at a very young age. We create personas so that we can belong.”
We all have an ego. It has been formed by our experiences and our perceptions, both good and bad. These personas that we create mask our authenticity and block our ability to truly find success and happiness. Let’s look at a little bit more at the ego.
What Is The Ego All About?
Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson, helps us understand specifically how the ego creates miscommunication and misunderstandings. These two factors are the underpinning to team dysfunction, competition in the workplace and in its extreme form, workplace violence. Essentially, there are two main reasons for miscommunication and misunderstandings: 1) our lack of focus or attention to another person; and 2) our judgment of the other person based on their outward appearance (facial expressions, body language, etc). When this happens, our own ego distorts our perceptions and thoughts about the other so that we come out on top. The degree of miscommunication and misunderstanding are determined by closeness and relevance. The closer you are to the person and the more relevant the situation is to both people involved, the greater the change for argument, hurt feelings, and so on. Take for example two siblings settling the estate of a diseased parent. The closeness to the situation is high and the relevance (getting equal inheritance) is also very high. Navigating through this situation would need to be done with great care, attention, and clear communication. So how does this play out in the workplace?
Questions That Challenge The Ego
Our egos create stories, perceptions, and judgments about situations and other people. Often times, companies will mainly work with employees and management teams on conflict resolution strategies and social awareness. While this helps, it is missing a critical component. Matthew Taylor suggests that self-awareness is the cornerstone to developing teams that work, effective communication in the workplace, and the ability to resolve problems that create a win-win. In many of my own coaching experiences when dealing with conflict, I have to bring the client away from the situation for some reflective work around their own perceptions, values, beliefs and stories. The ability of a client to know and understand the “emotional baggage” and the stories they carry with them helps to change the way they see the current situation and often provides new understanding and context that was never previously considered. Like Taylor, many of these types of questions are asked:
- What personal baggage do you carry that might be getting in the way?
- What happened to trigger the emotional response?
- How did these emotions serve you in this situation and how have they gotten in the way?
- How can you manage the emotional triggers right now?
- What can you do to keep the goal at the center of your thoughts and actions?
Questions like these begin to change the narrative and help someone shift from a place of negativity to a place of neutrality where negative emotions can be put aside and a different form of listening can occur. By why settle for neutrality when one can really dig in and rewrite the script?
Edging Out The Ego
The real work of edging out the “ego” is when you choose to drop the baggage. Easier said than done right? Absolutely! But…that’s because it has to be replaced with the gifts of who you truly are. The stories that you create need to be centered on your gifts, your talents, and your desire to share them authentically with others to achieve an end goal. You do this when you are not emotionally attached to the outcome and what you have to share. When you do this, you are able to listen with greater intent and empathy so that a non-judgmental understanding of others occurs. This comes from a place of strong inner-knowing and the belief that you are inherently good and have value. The ego no longer has a place in you and the fear of truly being seen as we are dissipates.
Train The Whole Person For Success
Companies and leaders who are serious about building those highly profitable, synergistic teams and maintain high-potential employees need to consider incorporating the deeper work and training around personal self-awareness and emotional self-control into their conflict resolution and social awareness training. This is the cornerstone to greater understanding, empathetic listening, and building greater self-esteem in your employees. While this may not seem like your job…it does result in far greater profitability, happier teams, and new actionable innovations. For more support or access to specific training for you or your business, feel free to reach out. I would love to hear from you.
Winfrey, Oprah (2017).The Wisdom of Sundays: Life changing insights from super soul conversations. Flatiron Books, New York, NY.