EGO is not a dirty word
Written by Drewie/Hard Hat Mentor
Hi team, I trust you are having a great day thus far. If not perhaps clicking on the video at the end of this post may inspire you to have a little ‘happy moment’ and dance, even if on the inside. Due to the title I could not help but to ensure you had access to the Skyhooks song of the same name.
On a more serious note:
The breakdown of or failure to place importance on relationships and communication
Many of us at times may, despite our best efforts, hit brick walls when it comes to getting our all important messages across. There was a time, back in the day, I made the below comment:
“Well if I have to keep bashing my head against the wall I want a big wad of money to cushion the blow”
Totally unacceptable to me now, cannot imagine even having that mindset, how tragic.
This total feeling of frustration came about due to circumstances at work relating to the usual suspects:
- Incident on incident
- Meetings with ‘the powers that be’: a total waste of time with nothing being achieved
- ‘Us and Them’ the gap widening daily between management and workforce
- Expectations from ‘leadership’ that if they ignored that ‘safety chick’ she might just go away
- Weekly toolbox/safety meetings erupting into a sh#t fight
- Being buried in paperwork, KPI’s blah, blah, blah.
- Questioning why I chose to be a safety weirdo (dreaming that perhaps environmental advisor may have been an easier road)
Most of us have been here at some stage to some degree I suspect. All of the above ‘comes with the territory’ or ‘If it was easy everyone would do it’. Such were the conversations and thinking by many at the time.
We know now this does not have to be the case and many leaders and organisations have worked long and hard to ensure those scenarios are far and few between.
On the ‘off chance’ these scenarios may still exist out there, I wanted to share an experience with you regarding a self-awareness journey which paved the way to improve those scenarios 10 fold.
Firstly as you know I am a huge believer in holding the mirror up to see what role we ourselves may in fact play in situations which do not have the outcome we would like.
Being exposed to Transactional Analysis most definitely improved my self-awareness which in turn improved relationships and increased my sphere of influence. Then spreading that concept via workshops and in field coaching conversations seemed to help others in the same manner.
I will not profess to be an expert on the subject, to find out more as there is much more to it than will be revealed here, perhaps check this book out. Has stood the test of time as the great books do. Berne, Eric (1964). Games People Play – The Basic Hand Book of Transactional Analysis. New York: Ballantine Books.
In a very broad stroke:
In the first half of the book, Berne introduces transactional analysis as a way of interpreting social interactions. He describes three roles or ego states, known as the Parent, the Adult, and the Child, and postulates that many negative behaviours can be traced to switching or confusion of these roles. He discusses procedures, rituals, and pastimes in social behaviour, in light of this method of analysis. For example, a boss who talks to his staff as a controlling ‘parent’ will often engender self-abased obedience, tantrums, or other childlike responses from his employees.
As part of our role on a construction project in the recent past, my team and I gave a brief introduction to this theory and chatted about what they may mean at work. We called the workshops ‘EGO States,’ a quiet acceptable term for the theory. There was no way we were going to invite the work crews to a workshop called ‘Transactional Analysis’. It wasn’t that we thought they were stupid, just understood the possible backfire in using terms which may raise eyebrows, so wanted to start off on the right foot.
To cut a long story short
The workshops were only about 45 minutes long (time is money/production) We knew the target audience were so much more intelligent than they were perceived to be by various ‘leaders’ on site.
The crews related to and grasped it instantly. We all agreed to hold that mirror up and to take responsibility for our own ‘EGO states’ in future one on one interactions and in toolbox/Safety/Pre start meetings.
They admitted that perhaps they had been fighting with management and firing off grenades in meetings when they had had all week to raise those concerns with their leaders prior to said meetings.
They totally understood that although they believed the ‘company’ was being a ‘parent’ and treating them like ‘children’ the only way forward was for one party to step into ‘adult’ ego state for any positive change to occur.
Specifically in my group: I had listened to the crew’s concerns in the field, the usual:
“But they don’t listen Drewie, the same corrective actions have been sprouted off in meetings every week with none of them actually being ‘actioned’ at all. It is a joke, that is why we ‘give it to em’ in the meeting.’
On further discussion, they explained the ramifications of the hazards they had identified, hazards they could not rectify without management assistance. (I will not break trust by going into any further detail)
I was astounded as some of them were quiet serious.
We spoke about the fact that the way they had just explained it to me was quiet rational, calm and with respect. To which they replied “So from our Adult Ego State?” my answer, “Bingo.”
I asked them if they had ever voiced their concerns in that manner to the leaders or in a meeting.
Much shuffling off feet and looking at each other for support gave me my answer.
So we made a deal that at the next meeting (that afternoon) they would consciously make the effort to remain in their ‘Adult Ego State’ no matter what happened in the meeting and see if that made a difference.
Well it was if a ‘magic wand’ had been waved!
The same concerns which had been raised previously were raised again yet not by the children in the room, by the adults.
The parents in the room were visibly in shock at this approach and their defences came down immediately, you could see the relief in their body language so very loudly.
That magic wand continued to work on the parents and ‘HEY PRESTO,’
They turned into Adults too right before our eyes.
The seriousness of the hazard was agreed upon and a plan of action put in place right there and right then which solved it almost instantly.
This did not surprise me at all, the power of the people wins yet again.
So why had it been so hard before that?
You know the answer:
We are dealing with human beings with all the psychological challenges that come with that.
Nothing is ever black and white or as simple as I have stated it here. Much more to Transactional Analysis and much more at play than just that for sure in a group of people.
Yet I swear on this occasion it just worked, immediately and continued to improve as the weeks went on. That is not always the case, the process can be much slower to take hold and may even fail, yet not a good enough reason not to give it a crack.
So here we have another example that having the courage to hold the mirror up is the first big step in taking responsibility for our own behaviours and actions to help influence all those around us.
This experience cemented my belief that companies who spend the time and money to invest in their peoples (and their own) self-awareness through psychology focused strategies will take steps toward improving the culture in a manner no additional piece of paper, KPI, procedural review or system change ever will.
As always this is just my humble opinion and my ‘data’ is my experience at seeing this work with my own eyes. One of the leaders said to me after that meeting, with a huge smile on his face,
I just winked and walked off – hey keep em’ guessing right!
“Everybody dance now….
Only use your power for good
Drewie and Hard Hat Mentor