As performance wellbeing advocate, I care about how leaders show up and what drives their decisions and actions. Gaining the awareness of your leadership derailers and bad habits will help you break away from the need to be harsh, impatient, always being right and being the shining star. This has tremendous power to:
- Create a business environment of compassion and trust
- Make others safe to express who they are
- Face tough issues and talk about them
- Establish functional teams
- Be vigilant at innovating and reaching goals
- Make life richer and satisfying both at home and work
- Step into what you’re most called to contribute
But how do you break free from the ego prison? Having worked alongside of executives in Fortune 500 companies and studying the behavioral sciences, I’ve learned that these are the top best practices to freeing your ego and expanding performance that you should pay attention to.
- Recognize Your Ego Patterns.
At one of the largest financial institutions in New York City, I worked alongside of highly educated executives who accumulated a vast amount of knowledge through seminars and books. But their leadership style showed certain counterproductive aspects that had built up over the years, limiting both their potential and the potential of the company. One director would go far and wide to always be right. Instead of creating a space for open dialogue and free exchange of ideas, he would debate with us over things that didn’t matter.
I also saw this same behavior pattern with a former client that I coached. I knew we had to search for his ego-threats that were beneath the behavior. When I dug deeper into his past experiences looking for the root cause of this behavior, he admitted to being mocked as a child whenever he gave a wrong answer. From this were a set of insecurities stored in his unconscious. He was marred by his cognitive distortion – tendencies or patterns of false thinking or believing. Our brains are wired to protect us from reliving pains so we become overly sensitive and on alert to those triggers. When our ego feels threatened, we have a fight-or-flight, triggered reaction.
- Look honestly at the cost of your behavior.
Cognitive distortions are irrational thoughts and beliefs we unknowingly reinforce over time. These thoughts and beliefs often develop as a child, as with my client, carrying-over into adulthood and get in the way of us performing the way we want. My client learned early on that to be right, not wrong, meant not fearing the ridicule. This attitude of not be ridiculed became an unconscious automatic response, (ego trigger) a magnified thought pattern that on the surface appeared to keep him in his comfort zone, but was keeping him from sharing ideas he passionately believed in. The cost of letting his fears drive him affected his wellbeing.
After working with him for a while, each time he felt the impulse to react unproductively, he asked himself, “how is my ego feeling threatened? How am I afraid to be perceived?” Responding to these questions helped him stimulate the motivation to change. He strove to behave in a manner consistent with his goals. When the opportunity arose to add his input and ideas, he shifted away from fear of being judged as wrong. He alternatively turned his focus to his values, vision and ways to support his colleagues.
- Rehearse the New Behavior.
Coaching and training provided my client the push to repeatedly take risks and consistently behave differently in order achieve the results more in line with his goals. This repetition of changing behavior with good results rewires a new brain path for internal thought process. Science tells us we can intentionally observe our thoughts and actions and make decisions about them. With practice, my client improved his ability to recognize and respond, not react, to his ego-protection patterns. We have the power to change our beliefs.
- Put Your Thoughts on Trial
The motivation here is simple. The goal is to increase your awareness of the difference between reality and thoughts about reality. Research psychiatrist David Burns said,
“I suspect you will find that great many of your negative feelings are in fact based on such thinking errors.”
You can put a thought on trial by acting as a defense attorney, prosecutor, and judge to determine the accuracy of the thought. As a prosecutor and defense, gather evidence in support of, and against, your thought. Evidence can only be used if it’s a verifiable fact. No interpretations, guesses, or opinions! As the judge, what is the verdict regarding your thought? Is the thought accurate and fair? Are there other thoughts that could explain the facts? Be guided by what matters most to the situation and organization.
At DecisionLab, we are here to support you with operating an effective organization and reducing financial waste. We have worked with leaders at all levels to optimize performance, build strong leaders and modernize growth. You can start by identifying the causes of your own personal patterns. Download our free high-performance wellbeing exercises that build morale, improve communication, boost productivity and optimize growth.