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December 1, 2022

Me Destroys We!

I have the privilege of working with dental teams nationwide through my teambuilding Culture Camps!  They are customized to meet the unique and specific needs of the practice and vary greatly in each office.  However, every Culture Camp starts with a meeting on the first night with the leadership team.  I start with them because everything begins and ends with their leadership.  It’s what leaders do, allow, or accept that cultivates the culture.  If the leadership team is not aligned and cohesive it will be difficult to get the aligned and cohesive.

I spend the first evening getting to know and building a relationship with the leadership team.  We discuss their goals and obstacles with the practice, team, and each other.  I refer to the leadership team as the “we team”!  I call them the “we team” because leaders need to think as we instead of as me.  We thinking” cultivates alignment and cohesion.  When leaders are aligned and cohesive, they communicate and work together better which produces a happier, healthier, and higher performing practice culture.

One of the pitfalls I observe especially in high producing practices is discord amongst the leadership team.  Often the more successful a practice is the more strife there seems to be between the leadership team.  Success often inflames egos.  It is dangerous when we allow success to go to our head.  When it does, our ego takes over and we feel entitled.  Entitlement changes our mindset from we to me.  “Me destroys we!”

Me creates an exaggerated pride, overwhelming self-confidence, and contempt for others.  Taken to extreme it can become the acquired personality disorder “hubris syndrome.” Scientific research defines it as a “disorder of the possession of power, particularly power which has been associated with overwhelming success, held for a period of years.”

There is a difference between a healthy ego and an unhealthy one.  Healthy egos are good and needed to succeed.  When meeting and assessing the leadership team, I look for signs of an unhealthy ego that may undermine alignment, cohesiveness, and even greater success.

Here are some of the most common sabotaging beliefs.  Consider your own thinking and see if you might need to readjust your viewpoint.

  • I am the owner doctor, and I can do what I want.
  • I am entitled to do what I want because I am the biggest producer.
  • I only support my decisions because I have the most knowledge.
  • I can never show when I am unsure or don’t know the answer or it will make me look stupid.
  • I can’t admit to mistakes, or it will make me look weak.
  • I will deflect and criticize others when I am challenged to not lose face.

An unhealthy ego narrows our perception and corrupts our behavior, often causing us to act against our core values.  When we believe we’re are the only one responsible for our success, we tend to be disrespectful, selfish, and unkind.  After all, we don’t need anyone else, and others are replaceable!  This is especially true in challenging situations. An unhealthy ego is like a wall that stops us from learning from our failures. Our past success left unchecked can sabotage our future success!

An unhealthy ego looks for information that confirms what it wants to believe. It makes us believe we are always right.  We only see and hear things our way.  We become susceptible like the emperor in the folktale The Emperor’s New Clothes!”

The result, we alienate the people we lead, the culture, and ultimately the patients.  I love the quote “Ego is a three-letter word that can destroy a big twelve-letter word called Relationship!”   We have all heard about great bands who had amazing success only to break up because of unhealthy egos.  They became a me instead of a “We”.   Their ego created me entitlement.  Me entitlement ended their relationship and sabotaged their future success as a band!

Healthy egos are good and needed to succeed.  A healthy ego is confident and decisive.  Yet, they know that there is more than just one way.  They know they aren’t always right.  They encourage open dialogue and are open to feedback.  They will support what is in the best interests of the practice, patients, and team (also referring doctors if they are a specialty practice).

Behaviors of a healthy leadership ego are:

  • They are determined to make a difference.
  • They know their why (sense of purpose).
  • They are self-confident and secure.
  • They are aware of their weaknesses and are comfortable in their skin.
  • They reflect instead of deflect.
  • They are approachable, open, and honest.
  • They keep things in perspective.
  • They admit when they are wrong.
  • They allow themselves to be vulnerable.
  • They are genuine and don’t pretend to be something they are not.
  • They are tolerant of people who have different views.
  • They are willing to listen and accept feedback.
  • They empower others to step up.

No one is perfect, and our ego will get the best of us at times.  Being open to feedback from our co-leaders, team members, and using a coach who can observe and advise are great ways to become a more aligned and cohesive “We”!

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