Do You Have an I Problem?


I asked my daughter – who’s got her first fulltime job – if she had seen some good or bad leadership this week. She said a team of people had been working on the solution to a problem, and when the manager came in and asked what ideas they had, one of the people said, “I was thinking…I’m pretty sure…I think this will work, etc.,” as if he had been figuring it all out himself. All five at our dinner table acknowledged the depressive effect when someone doesn’t realize there’s no “I” in team.

Her story prompted me to tell them about how Jim Knaus tried to teach me a lesson 10 years ago. I had authored a letter that went out to Jim and a couple hundred people. He sent his copy back. It was marked with red marker the way our tyrannical Advanced Placement English teacher Fr. Polakowski would savagely attack our every mistake. Jim had circled every “I” in the page-and-a-half letter. Yeeesh, there were an embarrassing number of red circles.

In both cases the multitude of I-statements were at the very least a major distraction to the work. Can you imagine the number of organizational problems that have a direct link to EGO? It happens a lot because who doesn’t have an ego in play? Often, likely in both cases above, ego takes over quite unconsciously. Getting conscious really matters, because when ego is out front, we get in the way of good teamwork. What we don’t realize is – paradoxically – the focus-on-me also gets in the way of our own growth, fulfillment, and peace. If you are up for a remarkable, onion-peeling look at how YOUR ego works – and works against you – pick up Eckhart Tolle’s somewhat misleadingly named best-seller, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life Purpose. Reading this book was like having someone circle my inner thoughts with a big red pen. Yeeesh again. You can’t read Tolle and not see some things you might not want to see. But the upside is you’ll have ten times more awareness, opportunity and possibility when you see how you may be letting the little “me” of ego get in the way of much greater purpose and a powerful and life-giving “we.”

For those who have read Tolle, I’d love to read your comments about what you learned from him. Were you blown away by his quotation of the fourteenth century poet Hafiz? You can find Hafiz at the top of this week’s RFL blog.

Pay attention to your “I’s” this week. You can never get too much self awareness if you want to

Lead with your best self!