The Ego Dysfunction

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A couple of times in my career I have attended a workshop called "The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team". They are... (1)Absence of Trust, (2)Fear of Conflict, (3)Lack of Commitment, (4)Avoidance of Accountability and (5)Inattention to Results. Each one is dependent on the one before - meaning if the first dysfunction is apparent on your team, you will most likely have the other four, etc.

If a team has some dysfunction in all five areas it means that it all started with the "Absence of Trust". In my opinion, lack of trust usually comes about when one or more members of a team put their own individual self above the good of the group - when they focus on their interests, what they want and what they believe, and do not value or are even interested in other thoughts and opinions.

This should not be a "shocker" to anyone. Self-centered egos are not a rarity in the workplace, or in life for that matter. The way in which the world currently operates makes each one of us feel that we have to be better, smarter, stronger, richer and more popular than everyone around us. From a very early age we are taught to strive to be "the best" and if we're not, we are labeled as "less than". And in the opposite way, the more "successful" we are the more valuable we feel. We think we have to be invulnerable. Is it any wonder that we are consumed by our ego and by self?

Many of us become so obsessed by how others perceive us that we will manipulate, harass, ignore, dispute and violate the trust of the many in order to impress or glorify ourselves to the few. All just to get ahead and satisfy our ego. Problem is, the ego is never satisfied - its main mantra is "More, more, MORE!" It becomes a never-ending vicious cycle within the rat race of life. And it is certainly difficult to trust someone who has only their own interests in mind. How can you feel like they have your back with they are so focused on their own? This is also where politics come into play and dishonesty thrives...

"Politics is when people choose their words and actions based on how they want others to react rather than based on what they really think." - Patrick Lencioni

So what to do? Well, in my opinion we have got to let go of all aspects of ego that strive to separate us from others and make us "better than". Meaning, we have to focus on the success of the team, rather than ourselves - to stop trying to lead and to instead work side-by-side. True humility, honesty and openness - that is what all the greatest teams have - a sincere and genuine desire focused on the team as a whole with all of the individual parts working in tandem, wanting the best for all. That is the only way we can build a strong and truly unified group of individuals.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any stories, anecdotes or quotes from your spiritual belief system to share? Here are some that I found... (this is the participation part) ;-)

"If five people meet together to seek for truth, they must begin by cutting themselves free from all their own special conditions and renouncing all preconceived ideas. In order to find truth we must give up our prejudices, our own small trivial notions; an open receptive mind is essential. If our chalice is full of self, there is no room in it for the water of life. The fact that we imagine ourselves to be right and everybody else wrong is the greatest of all obstacles in the path towards unity, and unity is necessary if we would reach truth, for truth is one." (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 136)

"Craving is the worst disease;
disharmony is the greatest sorrow.
The one who knows this truly
knows that nirvana is the highest bliss.
Health is the greatest gift;
contentment is the greatest wealth;
trusting is the best relationship;
nirvana is the highest joy." (Buddhist, Dhammapada - Sayings of the Buddha 2 (tr. J. Richards))

"Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." (King James Bible, Luke 18:10-14)

"As long as man is a captive of habit, pursuing the dictates of self and desire, he is vanquished and defeated. This passionate personal ego takes the reins from his hands, crowds out the qualities of the divine ego and changes him into an animal, a creature unable to judge good from evil, or to distinguish light from darkness. He becomes blind to divine attributes, for this acquired individuality, the result of an evil routine of thought becomes the dominant note of his life." (Abdu'l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 133)


Scott Stephenson said...

Great post, Justin. Ego prevents us from receiving many of the blessings that God pours down on us. True Christianity teaches us put others before self. A strong and meaningful marriage requires selflessness on a huge scale. Some of our greatest leaders have sacrificed their "image" to do the most important work in the history of our country.

And yet, society doesn't seem to get it. The biggest toys, the fastest cars, and the biggest houses determine a person's worth in society. Education, values and basic morality rarely win the popularity contest. The only way it makes a difference is to take off the cloak and mask we all wear in the "real world" and expose ourselves for the people we truly are. A daunting task, to be sure. But the rewards of others seeing the true being behind the costume can be worth the ridicule and slowly lead to the questions we are dying to answer. First from a few, and then a few more, and then the domino effect starts an avalanche of seeking that no one person or group can slow.

I meant to add one important part to add. My role in our church is to teach Discipleship and coordinate the many discipleship programs going on in the church. One of the basic biblical elements that we reinforce in our teachings is that while the idea may have come from us, any action and success is a direct result of letting go of our "selves" and alowwing God to work through us. We are but the hands and the feet.

Justin Johnson said...

Thanks Scott for sharing your thoughts on here. I really appreciate it and agree with you wholeheartedly. I especially like the idea of looking behind the mask and beyond the costume to who each and every one of us truly are. I do think a domino effect will eventually be created if enough of us do it - have you read the Tipping Point? Sounds like you have.

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