“We can do more if we ignore our logo and forget our ego.”
I was at a conference with global leaders last week and this was said from the stage. I’m not even sure who to attribute it to. It was in a shared context of responding to a situation that required immediate and generous corporate social responsibility. Whoever said it, understood that in order to respond in the right way EVERYONE needed to put aside who got the credit and lean into what was mission critical. Sadly, the opposite is often true in life and leadership.
When we care who gets the credit:
- Personality drives activity when purpose should.
- Branding becomes more important than problem solving.
- People “race to the bottom” (Attribution: Seth Godin) and we achieve a poor outcome fast.
Logo is about being seen, having the right branding in the right place at the right time. It’s the placement advertising of the gig economy. It’s wanting to be eye level and noticed when it counts. Ego is about being heard, it’s about being the loudest voice, the decision maker, the glory taker and the solution finder. Ego is about self and self alone. Ego is the child in an adults body still acting like a child.
What I’m NOT saying:
I’m not saying your own personal brand and contribution doesn’t matter.
I’m saying at times it doesn’t matter as much as the mission we share.
I’m not saying your organisation can’t benefit from the work and contribution they make.
I’m saying that your contribution needs to be contextualised in the mission.
I’m not saying this is strict altruism and always agenda-free.
I am saying the flag waving, chest thumping, self-serving kind need back it off a few notches.
Humble collaboration is about the purposeful putting aside of both your personal and corporate agenda in favour of the need being met, the problem being solved and the mission being accomplished. It’s about letting WHY you are working together become more important than WHO gets recognised and has their brand made better as a result.
When it comes to humble collaboration you can make two choices, to be prominent or private. To be noticed or not, to be heard or not. To place self before others and mission above recognition. It looks something like this:
Logos & Egos Model: Getting Collaboration Right
The Model explained:
Sure, in life and leadership, it’s much more like a continuum but for our sake, let's locate what our default might be and how we can move ourselves both up and to the right. We either want to be seen and heard in a way that has us at the centre or satisfied with making our best contribution at the right time.
The least helpful place you can be is all things prominent when it comes to logo and ego. Singularly focused on prominence for you and your brand. This positions you as self-serving. When you are self-serving you don’t care about the mission as much as you care about yourself. It’s like trying to push start a car with everyone leaning against it only to stand up and discover one ‘teammate’ is walking behind being no help at all. No wonder it felt extra heavy for that moment.
People are left feeling neglected and unappreciated when this happens.
When you have your ego in check but the logo is loud you are flag waving. You are managing yourself but you want your brand, your organisation, your banner in some place of prominence. It has this swagger to it that says ‘watch us’ we know what we’re doing and we know how to sort this. It’s like one of those scenes on television where a crime has been committed and the various law enforcement entities jostle one another for the right to lead the investigation. They do it by waving the flag of their department and the benefits of being in charge.
People are left thinking that the arrogance and overconfidence might be a little misguided.
When you have your logo under control but your ego is off the leash, you are chest thumping. Like pre-adolescents sorting out the social pecking order in the playground. Spending your time and energy on a ‘see me’ style of leadership. Needing to be noticed and acknowledged and complimented. Thanked for your contribution with that ‘we couldn’t have done this without you’ way of appreciating your contribution.
People are left wondering where your insecurity is coming from.
When you can engage with a sense of wisdom and discipline with both your logo and your ego, you are mission serving. You lean in with a ‘we win’ attitude. You see what needs to get done and do it. You understand your skills, talents and resources not only can, but must serve a bigger picture. You realise at that moment, the work you are doing together is the prize. The outcome you share will be enough. The opportunity to be part of something that helps and serves and shapes IS enough. In doing so you will reap at some point in time, the recognition of your good work.
To ignore your logo and forget your ego you can begin by doing the following five things:
- Assess – What is the real problem that needs to be solved?
- Define – How can each of us do more than all of us?
- Collaborate – Use the best you can get from everyone involved.
- Anticipate – Identify where this could go off track and resolve beforehand how you will fix it.
- Refine – Make changes in situ, become better while you solve the problem together.
Humble collaboration requires a big commitment to the possibility of no one knowing who you are and what you did. The counterintuitive thing is this – when you don’t care how you all win, you win.
This is for leaders. I am for leaders.