The Narcissistic Team

Team Engagement

For reasons that include fear for our own well being, companies that measure and reward individual instead of team results, a new generation of employees who feel more entitled than their older peers, and a US culture that reveres individual success, it appears we’ve entered the age of narcissism.

Let’s face it, some amount of narcissism is beneficial and can create charismatic politicians, CEO’s touting compelling visions, and individuals committed to self-awareness and fulfillment.  But a single focus on “self” damages relationships, impedes innovation and squelches collaboration. Maslow would say that serving the “self” is a necessary rest stop on the road to serving others. So, how do you help employees move from “it’s all about me” to a focus on service?  Focus on character and engage your employees in key decisions.  Here are two suggestions:

At your next team meeting ask:

  • What are we trying to be the best AT in the company?
  • How are we trying to be the best FOR the company?

“AT” goals are about the individual; my results, my needs and expectations, my performance and rewards and my knowledge and skills.  “FOR” goals are about the group; our character and service to others, our needs and expectations, our performance goals and rewards, our shared knowledge and collaboration.

Some might say Kobe Bryant is the best AT basketball, but Michael Jordan was the best FOR basketball, due to his leadership and service to the community.  Your son might be the best AT karate in your local studio, but is he the best FOR the studio in the way he helps others and volunteers to sweep the floor?  Your boss might be the best AT supply chain management in your company, but is she the best FOR your company by how she models open communication, collaborates with other departments and does what‘s right, even if unpopular?

To illustrate this further:

Me-Focus Us-Focus
“AT” goals “FOR” goals
Individual skills Character
Personal results Service to others
Company silos Cross-departmental collaboration
Knowing Exploring new ideas

Engage your people in defining the team’s mission and values.  People are starved for meaning.  By engaging your people in mission and values decisions you connect them to a larger purpose. These key decisions should define the team’s unique reason for being, clear business goals and how it’s going to the best FOR the company by modeling service to others.

Facilitate a discussion around these basic questions: who are we, what do we do, for whom do we do it and why?  Initially, you’ll be amazed how much disagreement there is, and later, how much alignment, focus and energy come from this process.

When we set goals that demonstrate character and engage our employees in key decisions, our team members won’t stop thinking about what is best for them. Rather, they’ll include thinking about what is best for others.