A team of people working together focused on a mission and without ego. This is where high-level creativity, productivity, and innovation occur. This is where magic happens.
We’re social creatures, hard-wired to enjoy working with groups on missions that are bigger than ourselves. This behavior is so essential to us that cognitive scientists have referred to it as Team Flow. If flow describes a state of consciousness where high performance is achieved automatically and without effort, Team Flow is when a group of people working together achieve this powerful state, simultaneously.
Ego is the enemy of peak performance
Though if there’s one thing that stifles these states, it’s ego. Flow happens when it’s us, and the mission. Ego is about me. My achievements, y aspirations. It is the opposite of peak performance.
But what about high achievers with big egos, you ask?
Granted, there is no shortage of high-performing athletes, artists and business people with famously big egos. But nobody is saying you have to become a monk and live egolessly all the time. It’s all about gaining of control of your ego so that you can set it aside when it arises, and focus on the mission at hand.
Take Michael Jordan, for example.
It would be hard to argue that Jordan didn’t have an ego, but while he was captain of the Chicago Bulls in the early to late nineties, the Bulls won a record-breaking 6 NBA championships. How? When it counted, Jordan was focused on the mission, and nothing else. Under Jordan’s leadership, the Bulls played in near-perfect synchrony, in a state of team flow. He didn’t take credit or insist on doing everything his way, he did what it took to succeed. Had he not checked his ego at the door, the results would have been very different.
As a leader, one of the most important roles you play is to facilitate, and not stifle these states. For optimal results, it’s up to you to set the stage for peak performance.
Here are 5 ways to build and maintain an ego-free culture in your team for peak performance.
Clearly define your mission
If your team’s mission is clearly defined, and your team is united around that mission, the stage is set to hone in on what counts. Why does this work? By setting a goal that is better than any individual, you’re limiting the egos ability to take root, and encourages the team attitude required to reach that goal. There’s no room for ego when your focus is on a mission, and a clearly defined mission acts is the essential first step to creating an ego-free team culture.
Listen to your team
Listening is what happens in the absence of ego. Mission-driven leaders know that they don’t have all the answers. They’re receptive to feedback and constructive criticism.
Be present, and keep out of your head
Ego comes from your mind. It’s your thoughts, judgments and opinions. When you’re present, in the moment and focussed on the mission, you’re operating out of your mind. Of course, this is easier said than done, and this is where mindfulness practice can really pay off.
Whenever ego arises, let it go
This is a skill that may be hard to master, but getting it right will pay dividends. Ego will rear it’s ugly head, again and again. Defeating your ego isn’t a box that you can simply tick and move on. It is an ongoing process and it will take practice, feedback, or coaching to get the results you’re after.
When you notice your ego is making an appearance, you need to:
- Acknowledge that you’re acting out of ego
- Refocus on the mission
Lead by example
Mastering your ego is a personal mission. You may not be able to control other people’s egos, but by learning to let go of your own, you’re in a much better position to inspire others to do the same.