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Managing Teams by Harnessing ‘Ego’ Energy

If you have seen a team performance like a cricket match, you will find that each player is totally involved in his or her role in the match, yet conscious of the overall goal of the team i.e. to be successful. The captain looks intense, totally committed to an excellent overall performance. The better each player plays, the more successful is the captain in his/her objective.

Now let us consider a very powerful emotional state: the Ego. Each player represents an ‘ego’, a self-belief that he/she is the best in his/her role. The captain represents the ego of the master self-belief of being the best in delivering the entire performance.

Ego is real. Everyone has one. Everyone needs one; the ego carries tremendous energy, drive and conviction. It has its downsides, but since everyone has it and responds to life through it, it really would be pointless to run it down as something bad and undesirable. We could view ego not as self-centeredness, but a self-belief that can achieve great results, given its energy. We can also try and channel the ego energies within a team towards highly productive and desirable outcomes. The person attempting to harness the ego energy within his/her team has to believe first that such ego is all right and secondly, that he/she has one too. Also no ego is better than or superior to the other, but in a team combination, it can deliver brilliantly in fulfilling a specific goal.

The word ‘ego’, Latin for ‘I’, is used to mean a person’s sense of self. Introduced as a term by Sigmund Freud, it has often been viewed negatively. But there is nothing wrong with holding a healthy sense of self. If one can hold one’s ego in check and then really look at what it is that triggers the other person’s ego-drive, one would gain valuable knowledge of what is to be done in order to get the best out of that person. We should broaden positive reinforcement to the belief that every person in a team brings a critical value to the table.

It is the team manager’s responsibility to ensure that his/her teams and even his/her egos do not clash with each other. This can be done by understanding a fundamental truth: people are driven in any situation by what’s in it for them. You can gain a lot by helping each member by analyzing what’s in it for each one of them. Precisely each individuals inspiration and motivation factors are different from one another. There is another truth to be remembered: a person with strong ego will never under perform. His/her ego will never allow that.

There is more a manager can learn from this. It lies in his/her end objective on each job and on his/her overall responsibility. The manager’s objectives and responsibilities are larger than those of any of the reporting team members. So it is in the manager’s interest to have each team member contributing his/her best towards the overall objectives. Then, there is no conflict.

Yet, we see that ego clashes between managers and team members and between team members themselves are common. This is because, ego is fundamentally defensive, and there is no person who is totally confident of his /her self-belief. We all have our moments of doubts on acceptance.

The fundamentals of effective ego management are to assimilate that:

Everyone has an ego; it is not unnatural or undesirable

Acknowledge that you have an ego, as much as others do

To harness your team’s ego energies effectively, harness your own ego

Be ego-positive, not ego-defensive

Channel the team ego energies effectively towards the success of the overall objective

Guide each team member to see what’s in it for him/her on each job to be accomplished

Your ego energy cannot be de-linked from your team’s ego energies

If you can encourage and strengthen your team members’ self-belief by taking the above steps, realizing that this cannot diminish your importance in any way, you have got a winning team on your side. One example of such a winning side was the Indian Cricket team during the 1983 World Cup. It consisted of big stalwarts and ex-captains like Sunil Gavaskar and others, but the captain Kapil Dev was able to take everyone along, thus producing a positive result, which has not repeated itself untill now, by us. The present team has a lot of ego clash between senior players, between seniors and juniors, between the players and the coach etc. You can curb team ego clashes by creating the conviction that there is something specifically important that he/she brings along in each member.

Effective team management is about doing whatever it takes to accomplish your objective. Remember the example of the team’s captain. His/her success cannot be overshadowed by any single player’s success. Your ego energy cannot be de-linked from your team’s ego energies. The latter feeds the former.

Prof. Jharna Lulla

Faculty Economics and Placement Officer

International School of Management Excellence

The author of the article is Prof. Jharna Lulla, faculty at International School of Management Excellence, Navi Mumbai. She has done her Masters in Economics and PGDM. She has extensive experience in Industry before moving to academics. Prof. Jharna is currently writing a book on Macro Economics and is a prolific writer in journals and magazines.