In trying to relay this to my co-workers recently, I contrasted Ego with Self Esteem. Let me try to paint a picture of the difference and then we will look at it in more detail. Here is my analogy of Ego vs Self Esteem
I am friends with a former professional wrestler. He was a “good guy” of wrestling and he is not at all this way in his personal life but, the fact is that professional wrestling is all about Ego – huge, huge Ego. That is what they are all about. The whole professional wrestling schtick represents the very worst of what Ego is – they must destroy others in order to build themselves up.
On the other hand, we recently went to see the Moscow Ballet perform The Nutcracker Suite and, I am telling you, those guys who will put on white tights and dance ballet in Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, or the like? Now THAT is Self Esteem. They get up there and dance around in something that they really ought to wear a skirt over because they know that their worth as individuals is inherent -- God given. Unlike Ego, what they have is NOT something that others have to give to him
Anyone could go into the steel cage with tons of noisy fans, be the intimidator, and have the world revolve around them for a few minutes as they ride on their ego. But get up on a stage and dance around in skintight tights – showing your religion as they say -- that requires something else! Self Esteem. That sense of feeling good about yourself and about everyone around you because of each individual’s innate worth as a human being.
Let’s look further …
What marks Ego?
Convinced that others don’t treat you right
The inability to come alongside others as an equal
Desire to always have a pecking order
Does not take suggestions or criticism well
Always seeks compliments and approval from others
Very much into titles and hierarchical structure
Never at peace – always upset with someone or something
Always feels “put upon”
Gains personal worth by putting others down
End result: Ego’s ultimate focus is on “self,” not team performance
Ego is a bad thing – unhealthy for any team
Let’s contrast Ego with Self Esteem:
Personal peace comes from within
Realizes and respects the inherent worth of all individuals
Takes suggestions well
Does not see others as a threat
Recognizes that others help them and wants to help others in return
Will come gently alongside others to help them, not to belittle them
Celebrates the accomplishments of others
Focuses on team performance not on their “self”
A good thing – healthy because of team focus, not self focus
To me, there’s a funny thing about Ego – it usually involves the pot calling the kettle black. I told my co-workers that, if they’re thinking that they don’t have an ego issue (but perhaps everyone else does), I suggest they set aside some time for some serious self-reflection. If, on the other hand, they really are involved in self reflection and thinking about whether they carry excessive Ego, they probably have Self Esteem and not a high Ego. Folks with self esteem spend time reflecting on themselves and keeping that Ego in check.
I told everyone that we simply do not have space for big egos at Team Classic. We must work and perform together as a well-functioning team at all times. To put it bluntly, I asked them to spend some time thinking about this. If Ego drives their behavior, I feel that they have two choices. They can either check their ego at the door when they come to work each day (in which case they are welcome to take it back home with them each night if they wish) or, please, for the sake of all of us, they can find someplace else to work. I closed with instruction to buckle down and focus on working as a team, not as a bunch of individuals who like to finger point or walk around with hurt feelings.
I was serious about everything I said but, after the meeting, I could immediately tell that those who, in my experience, do cause issues with team dynamics due to their Egos, certainly did not take to heart what I said. However, I am going to start a series of “team talk” meetings with small groups of team members over the next several months. Hopefully, during the course of that, we can start to live out a little more introspection on the part of all of us.