Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Make Ego Work For You

It would be impossible to count the number of times a day comments are made about one ego or another. There’s no denying every one has a sense of self; it could be high or low self-esteem, or an inflated or minimized sense of one’s own self-importance. Ego can be extremely constructive with increased self-esteem driving us forward to achieve better, faster, more. It can also be negative and downright destructive particularly when one’s own level of self-importance no longer exudes a natural level of confidence but rather is perceived by others as complete and utter arrogance.

An inflated sense of self-importance is neither collaborative nor adaptive. It already knows what needs to be done and how to go about doing it. There is no room for other ideas, opinions or input even if they’ve been actively asked for. Can this behaviour deliver the results? Sure, eventually and usually by default rather than by design. Often though it is after a long drawn-out process full of issues, disruption, lost time and increased costs. All things that could with a bit of effort and some different behaviour, quite easily have been avoided. Interestingly enough, Ego generally only cares that delivery has happened. It has little or no awareness of the carnage and anger (yes anger) it has left in its wake. If there is any spec of awareness Ego more often than not moves directly into a blame culture pointing fingers as others must surely be at fault. Does this behaviour make those involved excited and motivated about working with Ego again? (nanosecond pause for thought…) Nope! Be aware the pointing finger - when one finger is pointing out there are 3 pointing back!

We all see and experience this type of behaviour at work, in sport, in the community and in politics. If you say ‘I haven’t’ then you’re likely to be one of 3 things:
  • telling a toddy-hopper (fib)
  • your Ego's talking; or
  • you’re very lucky!
So, let’s see how, when Ego is left outside, a different behaviour can occur and different outcomes are realised.

Different Behaviours creating Different Outcomes…
A new warehouse management process is about to undergo the final stages of testing prior to being rolled out across all European operations and, while you’ve been praising everyone for their efforts to encourage a last push for the final delivery, a major problem has occurred. The RF Scanners purchased months ago will not work with the software and testing has ground to halt. What happens next?

When the behaviour of Ego is triggered this is what usually happens. Questions are asked for information to be gathered but the responses are paid lip-service because at the same time instructions are issued on what to do. There is likely to be escalation without qualified understanding, demands on the Vendor for immediate resolution, and various other actions that will be viewed as self-protection. The result is normally one of confusion, annoyance, long hours, lost time and demotivation.
When a different behaviour is triggered there’s room to collaborate. Where the possibility to adapt swiftly to the noise pollution and frustration exists and acts as a calming influence to all. Quick information gathering conversations are organised to get the information necessary for sufficient problem definition and clear communication across the organisation. Collaboration ensures people feel valued and are willing to participate. Short-term contingencies with sensible long-serving resolutions are organised appropriately. The result is normally one where those involved clearly understand the impact, are focused and willing to do whatever is necessary.

Through collaboration¹ and adaptation² the decision maker can ask questions that dig below the surface, involve the obvious people along with those less obvious with an equally valuable contribution to make, and gather the information necessary for an appropriate yet quick resolution.
Note the reference to an ‘appropriate’ resolution and not the ‘right’ one. Why? Because there is no right or wrong, there is only what is most appropriate at a given point in time with the current information available, the variables at play and what is known or projected at that moment about the future.

¹ collaboration - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collaborative
² adaptation - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptive

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