Tag: ego


Good day, team.

This past week, an article I read in The New York Times by David Brooks got me thinking about self-orientation. The piece was about Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriquez and how, over the years, he has become more and more preoccupied with himself and his image. This week’s challenge looks at how this type of self-orientation can separate a person from his or her team, friends and family. These folks become the center of their own universe and forget that anyone else is around.

Self-preoccupation didn’t happen to Rodriguez naturally. It happened after promoters, agents and owners saw a rare talent and the money it could generate. Here’s part of what Brooks wrote:

“Rodriguez was a baseball prodigy from his earliest years. He batted an insane .505 his senior year in high school and had as many as 100 scouts at every game. When he was drafted first overall by the Seattle Mariners, he hired the super agent Scott Boras, who damaged whatever chances Rodriguez had of becoming a normal human being.

“Boras turned him into a corporate entity. In her book, ‘A-Rod,’ Selena Roberts reported that in the middle of his first contract negotiations, Boras had Rodriguez read a statement accusing the Mariners of being ‘low class.’ In other words, he was told to attack his first organization in order to squeeze a few dollars out of them. From the beginning, Rodriguez’s preoccupation was not with team, it was with self.

“By the time Rodriguez became a free agent, he was the marketing facade of A-Rod Inc. When negotiating with the New York Mets, Rodriguez’s handlers asked for the use of a private jet, a special hotel suite when on the road and a personal marketing staff. By the tine he reached the Texas Rangers, according to Roberts, a clubhouse attendant was required to put a dab of toothpaste on his toothbrush before every game.”

All of this led to an overly inflated ego that is insatiable in its quest for more and more attention. At the same time, Rodriguez has become overly sensitive to that attention. Ironically, the very special talents that lead him down this road are now threatened by his inability to deal with them. He has developed a reputation for caring more about his personal statistics than his team winning.

How does this happen to people? How do people become so overly concerned with their own performance, their own status (such as job titles and how high up they are on an organizational chart), their own ideas and even their own daily lives that they separate themselves and lose their ability to connect with others?

Like Rodriquez, many people with special talents get targeted by others who want to turn them into superstars. The great injustice is that once they become stars, it’s harder to relate to the team or the family. This alienation makes it more difficult to access their special talents, and the constant preoccupation with themselves continues to separate them. Being special can be a lonely place, and we often see superstars turn to drugs and alcohol to numb that feeling of being disconnected and alone.

As Brooks so aptly put it:

“My theory would be that self-preoccupied people have trouble seeing that their natural abilities come from outside themselves and can only be developed when directed toward something else outside themselves. Enclosed in self, they come to believe that their talents come from self, are the self. They have no outside criteria that tell them what their talents are for or when they are sufficient. Locked in a cycle of insecurity and attempted self-validation, their talents are never enough, and they end up devouring what they have been given.”

In the work environment, it’s difficult to trust people who constantly frame events in relation to how they affect them personally rather than how they affect the overall team. They are so self-oriented that we can’t trust them to be there for us when we need them. Part of good teamwork is sacrificing our own gains so that the team wins in the end. And part of belonging to the whole is knowing that we are only one part of that whole and not the entire thing.

This week, try to witness your own level of self-orientation. Are your unique talents and experience balanced with the talents of others on the team? Do you find that you dominate meetings by showcasing your talents? Do you give others the space to showcase theirs? How much time do you spend thinking about yourself during the day? Do you interpret almost all situations from the perspective of how this affects you rather than the broader view of the team? Do you compete with your peers to be the fastest, smartest, most creative and innovative, or most powerful? Do you throw others under the bus to gain the most advantage?

Each of us has sense of self. That self is often defined by the world around us and the people with whom we have the most interactions. As we age and acquire more wisdom, we see that these definitions may be pretty good when it comes to describing how we show up in the world, but they don’t really define our true selves at all. How we appear to others becomes less important. Rather than allow others to define whether we’re good or successful or special, we eventually learn to access our true selves. When we are in touch with our true self, we can more readily share ourselves with others. We revel in a sense of belonging and naturally desire to be true to what’s important to the group overall. When we alienate ourselves, we ultimately suffer. When we become overly preoccupied with our own concerns, our ability to embrace other people disappears.

People who have healthy self-esteem naturally value other people’s sense of self as well. Kindness and consideration of others predominates. These people consider what their team members need to be more successful. They encourage their team to be more considerate of other teams within the company, knowing that if they all win, the company wins. They think of ways to step back to allow others to shine.

Try experimenting with your self-orientation this week by intentionally putting yourself in your teammates’ shoes. What’s challenging for them and how can you help? How are they feeling about the project and what does it look like from their perspective? How can you reach beyond your own concerns to help a family member or friend?

William B. Given, Jr., the famous business author wrote:

“Whenever you are too selfishly looking out for your own interest, you have only one person working for you — yourself. When you help a dozen other people with their problems, you have a dozen people working with you.”

Have a good week!


© Copyright 2013 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

Coach’s Challenge 6/24/12 “What Not To Do”

Good day, team.
I tend to focus on the strengths and positive aspects of any person or situation. This is often reflected in my weekly challenge since I believe that encouraging and inspiring others to take positive action is part of my job as a coach. Consequently, many of the weekly challenges revolve around what to do to improve a situation. However, this week’s challenge is about what not to do.
The following article comes from Steve Tobak, a consultant and former high-tech executive. Tobak offers “10 Things Managers Should Never Do” — meaning anyone in a management position, from first time managers to CEOs.

“We’ve all had bosses do things we didn’t like, appreciate or respect. And every manager has done things they later regret. The business world is, by necessity, one of real-time decisions and judgment calls that sometimes turn out to be bad choices, in retrospect.

After all, nobody’s perfect. We all make mistakes. And that’s a good thing, since that’s how we learn lessons, including how to do our jobs better. That goes for every employee, manager, executive, business owner, CEO, everyone.

But sometimes a mistake can become a slippery slope. An exception can all-too-easily become the rule. Simply put, there are lines that managers should not cross, behavior they should not exhibit, and not to be overly dramatic, pathways that lead more or less to the dark side.

In 10 Things Great Managers Do, I went back in time to the best characteristics of the best CEOs I’ve worked for and with over the past 30 years. I decided to do the same thing here for the simple reason that I learned as much from the negative experiences as I did from the positive ones.

Keep in mind, this isn’t meant to be a whine-fest to get employees riled up and pissed off at their bosses. Think of it instead as a standard that employees and managers alike can agree upon and, perhaps, a wakeup call for those who need one.

10 Things Managers Should Never Do
Order people around like dictators. Contrary to popular belief, managers are not dictators. Every manager has at least one boss. Even CEOs serve the board or directors and shareholders. Any manager who thinks he can order people around or abuse his authority because he’s the boss is a terrible leader. Employees are not soldiers or children. You can tell them what their job is and even fire them, if you want, but if you order them around, the good ones will up and quit, as they should.
Forget about customers. It never ceases to amaze me how many managers forget that organizations and companies exist for just one reason — to win, maintain and support customers. Business is about business, and when you make it about you — your issues, your fears, your empire, your thin skin, whatever — you cease to be an effective manager.
Behave like arrogant jerks that are better than others. Just to be clear, I’m not saying managers or bosses can’t be jerks. A lot of people are jerks, including plenty of employees, and almost everybody’s a jerk under certain circumstances. I’m specifically talking about the arrogant “I’m better than the little people’ thing. It makes you look like a little brat and completely neuters your authority and credibility.
Let their egos write checks that reality can’t cash. Oftentimes, leaders attain their position because they believe they’re special — a fascinating misconception that’s nevertheless often self-fulfilling. The problem with that is the slippery slope of drinking your own Kool-Aid. Either you grow up or, sooner or later, things end up unraveling. I’ve seen it time and again, and it isn’t pretty.
Publicly eviscerate employees. Of all the things I’ve experienced over the decades, this is not only the most dehumanizing but also the most demoralizing to employees. I had a couple of CEOs that practiced this on a regular basis, and both were universally despised, as a result. Moreover, both self-destructed in the end.
Wall off their feelings. This may sound touchy-feely, but it’s far from it. Researchers are fond of classifying executives and leaders as psychopathic, but the mechanism by which that happens is compartmentalizing of emotions. If you’ve ever wondered how people who seem to lack any semblance of humor or humility can behave the way they do, the answer is, if you’re not connected to your emotions, you’re far less human.
Surround themselves with bureaucrats, BSers and yes-men. When you encourage the status quo and discourage dissent, you doom the organization to stagnation and eventual decline.
Threaten. Threats don’t work. They’re just as likely to motivate the opposite behavior of what you’re trying to achieve. They diminish your authority and make you appear weak and small. You should communicate what you want and why, then act on the results. That works. Threats don’t. And for God’s sake, never threaten an employee with his job or a vendor with your business. That’s just out of control.
Act out like little children. Everyone goes through the same stages of human development on the road to adulthood and maturity. Unfortunately, some of us get stuck in one stage or another, stunting our growth and rendering us dysfunctional. We look just like ordinary adults, but we actually behave a lot more like children, acting out, throwing tantrums and generally making life miserable for everyone around us.
Break the law. America is a nation of laws, and civil or criminal, they’re black and white for a reason. For some reason, executives will sometimes risk everything — power, wealth, careers, families, everything — for motives most of us will never understand. We’re talking accounting, securities, bank, wire and mail fraud; insider trading; bribery; obstruction of justice; conspiracy; discrimination; harassment; it’s a long, long list.”
This week, be honest with yourself. Could your behavior be defined by one of these 10 categories? If so, you may have moved away from a management style that helps your people be successful into territory that is counterproductive, dysfunctional or destructive. If you find yourself doing any of these things, stop. Ask for help to stop. Get some feedback and suggestions from one of your peers or friends to help you find ways to avoid these dysfunctional behaviors. Hire a coach to help you draw out your more supportive behaviors. Talk with your human resource manager to find professional development courses that can teach you effective ways to manage others.

As Albert Schweitzer said, “Example is leadership.”

Have a good week,
Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249
© Copyright 2012 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.


This past week Cloud Four (my website gurus) transformed my website yet again and enabled the blog feature. We did this in response to a number of requests from subscribers who wanted to connect and converse with the community of people who read these weekly challenges. So I finally acquiesced and decided to begin blogging. I have resisted blogging for quite awhile for a few reasons. One, because I don’t like it when people start a blog and and then don’t keep it up. Two, I don’t like being criticized (invariably, someone writes in and says, “you’re an idiot and what you write about is dumb”), and three, my ego got in the way.

So, let’s talk about number three, because I can see in writing this that number two and number three are part of the same resistance. When I say my ego got in the way, I am referring to a voice in me that always has a comment about my writing. It says all kinds of things like, “who’s really interested in what you have to say?” and “gee, that’s pretty good for someone who’s not really a writer” and so on. It’s the kind of ego that grows out of self-pity and self-judgment. It took me awhile to understand this. I always thought that ego was like vanity, i.e., the part of us that thinks we’re special or better than someone else (I’m afraid I have some of those thoughts as well!). But I soon came to understand that ego and vanity are exactly the same. When you tell yourself you’re not special and that you’re not as good as someone else, it still singles you out and makes you the center of the universe. It’s still all about ‘me’. It’s just reflects a negative rather than a positive self image. When I’m in that negative space I’m not thinking about anyone else. I notice that even when I do think about others, it’s often in the context of what they might think about me, or what they’ve done to me, or how they’ve affected me. So, there it is again, me, me, me.

As a coach, most of my days are involved with listening and speaking with others about themselves. There’s no end to the difficulties we all encounter. A big part of why I love coaching is that I never seem to tire of the stories people tell me. I’m fascinated by what motivates people and how they work to enrich their lives. But, I also see that our minds construct a set of ideas and an image of who we think we are. And when events don’t align with those images and ideas, we feel anxiety and struggle to find meaning.

In a way, I’ve grown to see that it’s my ego that often tries to define me. If I’m not careful, I take that definition to be all that I am. In truth, I know that I am actually not anything that my ego defines. My true nature isn’t an actual thing, thank goodness, but rather …. well, if I could define it, it would be a thing, right?

Your challenge this week is to see what’s not your ego. See when you act from that ego personality and when you don’t. Perhaps you experience something of such beauty that it takes your breath away and, in that moment, there is no definition or thought, just an experience of beauty. Maybe you say a prayer and, afterwards, you have that warm, spacious feeling in your heart – no need for dramatization or definition. Often when I’m walking, I find that my mind isn’t telling me anything about myself or my surroundings. There’s something in the rhythm of just walking that can quiet my ego.

I have a friend who loves to snow ski because he says, “when I’m skiing I’m just skiing, nothing else. It’s such a joy to do something that doesn’t require any thought or commentary. Of course, the minute I fall down I look around to make sure no one has seen me. My ego takes over and comments on my skiing ability. Right then, that moment of peace is gone.”

When we give to others in unconditional ways, we are likely to find that the mind and heart are at peace. Find what works for you this week. Find something that allows you to experience a moment when the ego is not in charge. You may find that by observing your ego at work, you might just get a glimpse into what it is not, what is beneath it.

Years ago at a retreat, I heard someone ask the teacher, “How can I get rid of my ego?” The teacher replied, “Ego just is. And if you try to make it go away you’ll see that it’s your ego that is determined to be successful at making it go away and will be monitoring your progress and commenting about it.” One of my favorite phrases comes from Papaji, and Indian teacher who advised us to allow the ego to become the handmaiden to the self, rather than the other way around.

Papaji’s teacher, Ramana Maharshi also said, “Take no notice of the ego and its activities but see only the light behind it.”

Have a good week!

Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2009 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights reserved.