Balancing Ego, Results, Relationships
I was talking with a client yesterday about raising the motivation and connectivity of their team. Working in a high-pressured environment, many are old school, not used to working from home (with those complexities for many) and struggling to lead with confidence and assurity. We got into a great discussion about this fantastic concept of balancing ego, results and relationships. I thought you might find the model helpful with your current leadership. (And I give one of my previous coaches the credit for creating this – Andrew Neitlich – a brilliant leader in his own right).
Leaders must be able to balance three key tensions of performance: satisfying their ego, achieving results and building powerful relationships.
The lovely thing about this model is that it builds in perspective and flexibility, not only for understanding self-drivers but also as a frame for understanding that of our team members.
Let me explain more.
Ego represents our sense of self. In the western world, we often give the ego a hard time. And yet the ego provides us with a strong sense of self, it can give us the confidence to step forth into unfamiliar situations, to set audacious goals and keep raising the standards of those around us. Of course, if there is too much focus on ego, we become infatuated with external validation. The need for more recognition, more power, more status, more financial reward. When ego is the primary focus, we see silo’s being created, competitive behaviours and a lack of ‘one for all’ thinking. When too little ego comes to the fore, we often see woolly decision making and self-doubt (as we listen more and more to that inner voice of doom).
Most leaders, in my experience, are natural at focusing on results. This is about knowing how to set and achieve goals. Driving performance through managing resources, holding people to account and being relentless in the pursuit of the outcome. Once more though this can become out of balance. Too much focus on results without relationships will result in employees feeling coerced. That never-ending drive for more and more is exhausting. It builds up a lack of motivation, trust and followership. Leaders lose respect but don’t get it. I once coached a guy, many years ago, who invited me to attend his team meeting. He was not sure why his team were not performing and didn’t seem to be getting along too well. I decided to observe the first hour.
At the end of that hour, I called him to one side.
“May I ask how long you thought you spoke during that first hour?” (He was a strong extrovert with a team of 8).
“Well, they were quiet, so maybe 40% of the time?” he replied.
“How about doubling it….” I responded.
He was genuinely shocked. Yes, he spoke for 50 out of the 60 minutes. He absolutely drove that meeting, did not engage, ask questions, he talked over and focused purely on the tasks that needed to be done. And he wondered why his team were not behind him.
And finally, relationships. This is about seeing the potential in others, forgiving mistakes, drawing lines in the sand, knowing them as people (what matters to them, their motivations, their aspirations, etc). It’s about thinking continually about a win-win. Too much focus on relationships slows things down. Being liked, seeking harmony and avoiding conflict often means difficult decisions are not made. Once more I have coached many leaders who struggle with having difficult conversations, especially around performance. Their natural response is to avoid for fear of upsetting the apple cart.
Most of us tend to lean towards one or two of the three sides of the triangle, especially when under pressure. If you have a natural ‘fight’ tendency you will focus more on results and / or ego. If you have more of a ‘flight’ tendency, then you will want to avoid conflict and preserve those relationships.
My encouragement to you would be to assess where your balance lies across these three axes. Be mindful of how you are showing up, especially under pressure. And then when you have done that (and be honest with yourself); assess where you observe your team to be. You could then map your answers and see how balanced the overall team is. If you would like to explore this further, please get in touch. I have a useful questionnaire that may help shed more perspective. (Email firstname.lastname@example.org). And if you are interested in exploring coaching for yourself, please reach out.