How to Solve the EGO Problem on Your Team

How-to-Solve-the-EGO-Problem-on-Your-Team-Sean-GlazeAll high-performing groups will have people who are confident, but if your team is struggling, it may be because people on your team have an ego problem.

Ego is not in itself a bad thing.

All achievers have a healthy ego.  Bo Ryan, Head Coach of the Wisconsin Badgers basketball program explains that, “The selfless player with ego is a great team mate.”

But not every player with an ego is selfless, and it is those teammates or coworkers (the ones who have a destructive ego) that make succeeding in an organization difficult.  A teammate with a “bad” ego has a negative influence on team chemistry, but also limits his or her productivity and improvement – because bad ego “Eliminates Growth Opportunities.”

A “bad ego” is dangerous.  The ancient Greeks used the word “hubris,” and that blinding self-pride was often the tragic flaw that led to a powerful character’s downfall.

So what is the difference between “Bad” ego, that destroys team productivity and cohesiveness, and “Good” ego, that contributes to group success?

The difference can be simplified as destructive arrogance vs. constructive confidence.

Read the following eight descriptions, and see if you recognize yourself or a teammate:

  • Destructive arrogance (bad ego)  – needs to be in the spotlight and takes credit for team success.
  • Constructive Confidence (good ego) – is comfortable being part of something bigger than himself.
  • Destructive arrogance (bad ego) is often difficult to approach and belittles others
  • Constructive Confidence (good ego) is open and warm while sharing encouragement
  • Destructive arrogance (bad ego) spends most of his / her time talking (and bragging)
  • Constructive Confidence (good ego) spends most of his/her time listening (and learning)
  • Destructive arrogance (bad ego) becomes defensive when a conflicting idea is shared
  • Constructive Confidence (good ego) is interested in understanding other perspectives
  • Destructive arrogance (bad ego) is threatened by others’ success and focused on self
  • Constructive Confidence (good ego) celebrates others’ success and wants team victory
  • Destructive arrogance (bad ego) refuses to acknowledge weaknesses and makes excuses
  • Constructive Confidence (good ego) admits weaknesses and takes responsibility
  • Destructive arrogance (bad ego) assumes he/she knows more than his/her teammates
  • Constructive Confidence (good ego) is willing to ask for advice and leverage others’ strengths
  • Destructive arrogance (bad ego) usually uses the word “I” in conversations
  • Constructive Confidence (good ego) usually uses the word “we” in conversations

As you read through the descriptions, did someone in your organization pop into your mind?

Did you see yourself in any of the italicized “bad ego” examples and descriptions?

If so, the good news is that anyone can modify their perspective and behavior to be a more positive and valuable member of a team.  A team ego problem can be solved.

So, if someone in your organization has an ego problem, how do you solve it?

As G.I. Joe used to say, “Knowing is half the battle!”

The most important thing you can do is to make them aware of the issue.

In many cases, just the suggestion to a person that they are damaging the team dynamic can be a powerful catalyst for them to begin making a few personal changes in their behavior.

A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.” ~Benjamin Franklin  Tweet This!

Destructive egos eliminate growth opportunities when they refuse to acknowledge their own need for improvement or refuse to see themselves as one piece of a much larger and more important puzzle.

Bad ego causes people to focus on themselves and their own personal accomplishments.  It leads to a self-importance that seeks to focus attention on them instead of seeking ways to use their talents and contribute to others.

So what are a few other ways to solve the ego problem on your team?

Well, once you have become aware of the problem (or helped a teammate to acknowledge the problem), you can try the following ideas:

  1. Have the person list the ways that others have contributed to their success – it wasn’t by themselves that they succeeded in the past, and it will not be by themselves and their own efforts that they will enjoy success in the future!
  1. Choose one of the destructive ego descriptors and then assist the person in changing REPLACING the destructive behaviors with more productive and positive ones.
  1. Identify a behavior from the constructive ego descriptors that the person may already do well and suggest ways to leverage it and begin building better relationships with the team.
  1. Have the person make it a point to inquire about other teammates more often – and have them ask for advice about things that they are working on.
  1. Place the person in situations where he/she MUST depend upon others to be successful.  Learning interdependence can be difficult, but it becomes easier once the person finds that he/she can trust and depend on others.
  1. Provide opportunities for team building activities and bonding – the more the person learns about their teammates’ strengths, backgrounds, team personality types, and challenges, the more he/she will feel a part of care for the group.

Many years ago, Benjamin Franklin wrote that “a man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.”  Our job as teammates is to work together – and remember that confident collaboration creates a far better culture (and far more success to celebrate) than arrogant competition.

When Rick Pitino was coaching the Boston Celtics, he asked Bill Russell to speak to his team before a game.  Russell agreed, and began his brief speech by telling the group that HE was the most egotistical S.O.B. in the room.  “But my ego was always a team ego.  My ego was linked with the success of my team… and the greatest disappointment I had as a player was the year i was hurt and we didn’t win a twelfth title.”

Everything we do as leaders should be geared toward building a stronger team ego.

If you are looking for a special addition to your list of meeting topics or breakout sessions as part of your next conference, consider the benefits of a team development event as a catalyst to improve your group morale, energy, and interactions!

Have you thought of anything that you would like to add to the list? Please comment below.

About Sean Glaze

Sean Glaze is an author, speaker, and teambuilding facilitator who has enjoyed motivating athletes and inspiring teams for over 20 years.

As a successful basketball coach, he consistently turned under-achieving programs into winners, both on and off the court, with a focus on encouraging strong relationships, clear roles, and leadership development.

Realizing that ALL teams could benefit from improved communication, morale, and leadership, Sean founded www.GreatResultsTeambuilding.net and now provides fun teambuilding events and interactive speaking topics for businesses, schools, and athletic teams just like yours that want to transform their people into more productive teams!

Comments

  1. Some really good points here. In essence awareness is the key! I enjoyed this.

  2. Lorrie Daniels says:

    Great article as a person who strives to always be the highest achiever in my company and my industry I do feel ego or sense of ones own pride sometime fog’s up the big picture. This has make me think a little more about some of my actions within my sales team and some great advice for them as well. Being productive as a group can be more rewarding as being productive by yourself. Thanks !!

    • Lorrie-

      What a terrific point… It is the bigger picture of TEAM accomplishment and team pride that is always more rewarding than individualism.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. I really concur with the concept of building a team ego – this could be a very positive move.
    I agree with your statement that “A teammate with a “bad” ego has a negative influence on team chemistry, but also limits his or her productivity and improvement – because bad ego “Eliminates Growth Opportunities.” – as my company refers to them as container managers and expander leaders – containers tend to think very close to home (ie: about themselves) and therefore anything that challenges their ego is met as a threat. Expander leaders on the other hand see the opportunities for growth everywhere as they look outside of themselves and eagerly foster collaborative partnerships and find ways to support the growth of others.

    • Heidi-

      Thank you for the comment.

      I really like the metaphor of containers and expanders – helps to describe the impact of our leadership behaviors.

      Continued success to you and your team!

  4. Hi Sean. This is a great post. I definitely saw faces come to mind when I was reading the Destructive Arrogance descriptors. Happily, I also saw faces of those who have Constructive Confidence. Thank you for pointing out the danger of an inflated ego. And, as you so aptly stated, the first step to countering that is exposing the “offender” to the issue. Much easier said than done – for ego is also wrapped up in a level of over-stated self-esteem. Cracking through the “bad ego” belief system will certainly bring cohesion and health to a team. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with all of us.

    • sean glaze says:

      Susan-

      I really appreciate your comments, and agree that the most challenging part of the equation is approaching and working WITH the person displaying an individual ego to help them become more aware and involved in contributing to the team.

  5. JC Meyrignac says:

    A few years ago, I would have agree with your point of view, but now, I strongly disagree.

    The problem is that you are mixing ego and bad behavior (or more exactly bad habits).

    Ego is very simple: it’s the self-identification, like I’m a manager with a lot of experience, etc…
    Ego is neither bad or good, but it is very limitating.
    Ego is always changing, and the biggest danger is when people try to make their ego rigid (like I must have a good ego, or I want to have a bad ego).
    It’s very difficult to change the ego, since it means to remove our wrong identifications (you cannot imagine how far you can go), this can only be done by ourselves.

    Bad behavior is quite different, since it means that people interact poorly with other people.
    These bad habits can be easily changed, without involving ego.
    Why do people have bad habits ?
    Because they have 2 strong motivators:
    1) masculine motivator: I have to prove that I’m able to do something, I have a social value
    2) feminine motivator: I have to prove that I can be loved, I don’t want to be alone

    When we brag, there is a part that says that we want to show our value, and another part that we want to be admired (and thus loved).

    Of course, everybody has some feminine and masculine parts, and according to our own preferences, we always change between these 2 motivations.

    Because of these 2 motivators, people act as they were taught since a long time ago.
    If they were taught to focus on their competence, they’ll tend to sacrify the feminine part. And if they were taught to be loved, they’ll sacrify their social value.
    And this is what is destructive in people, not the ego.

    So please, don’t talk about good or bad ego !

  6. Brilliant assortment of thought provoking ideologies of ideal leadership Sean!

    Thank you 4 sharing your unique take on this critical vice of leaders….

    Regards
    Tanvi

  7. Hoda Maalouf says:

    Hi! You mentioned that a person with a destructive arrogance is often difficult to approach and belittles others. How could you approach such a person & make him/her aware of the problem? It could lead to a disastrous confrontation.

    • Hi Hoda-

      I think there is a definite need for confrontation at times when the development or performance of your team is threatened by individual ego.

      The key, I believe is never attacking the person, but making them aware of how their actions or attitude has affected others (and ultimately their reputation and relationships with team members).

  8. The ego minded individual is often the loudest member on the team, even when there is silence. There are members that can easily be seen in one area or another, then there are those that fall into the fuzzy gray area of constructive vs destructive confidence- Applying your principles to the fuzzy group that sits on the fence can easily bring great rewards. They are also the ones that watch us as leaders to see how we respond, or react. Thank you for sharing.

    • Susan-

      You are so right.

      I appreciate the suggestion about the importance of how WE as leaders react, also… Often that is a significant determiner of how many other negative egos may surface!

  9. Thank you Sean for sharing your practical ideas about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ego’s in a team. You learned me a lot about how to manage this.

    Kind regards,

    Joan

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