Letting go of your own ego can be hard.
You’re certain that your ideas are the best and it’s difficult to sacrifice them to the proposals of others.
It’s a little easier when you understand that the collaboration of the whole group is better than one individual’s contribution.
The beauty of improvisation is that you don’t have to go into it with more than a random thought to get the ball rolling.
The rest of your team is there to add their unique input, and the end result is a collaborative effort that each person has their fingerprint on.
In order to get the ball rolling, there’s one skill that’s critical to shelving your ego. Let’s see what it is.
Listening is the foundation of being able to think on your feet.
In order to adapt in the moment, you have to really hear and understand what’s going on.
Did you know that most Americans only listen to the first half of a sentence before their mind shifts into thinking of their response?
Sometimes, truly listening means giving up your “smart” response because you’re following the flow of ideas closely enough to understand that your comment may no longer be relevant or appropriate.
Staying in the moment is important and improvisation is a great way to develop the skill.
Check out this example of how one professional willing to shelve her ego turned out to be beneficial for everyone.
This occurred at one of the largest health systems in the US. One of the executives had a staff of nearly 100 with a retention rate of 98%. Needless to say, it was an excellent staff.
This team had incredible trust in each other as they worked, which was powered by improvisation.
Commonly, their meetings would begin with chatting, followed by the leader of the group throwing out a question, goal or idea. The leader would then sit back and let the team go.
This leader had so much confidence in her team that she was able to put her own ego aside and give others the chance to be heard and to lead.
There was one incident in particular that stands out as the perfect example of laying your own ideas aside for the greater good.
The executive came in with a plan for a new technology. It was her baby and it was almost ready to go.
During the course of the meeting, one member of the team spoke up with a suggestion that would require taking the whole plan back to the drawing the board.
At this point, the executive had a choice, didn’t she?
She could have dug in her heels, insisting that it was too much to change everything, and that her idea was fine just the way it was (thank you very much).
Or, she could hear her team out and see where their ideas lead.
As you may have guessed, she chose the latter.
It wasn’t without some apprehension on her part, but she allowed them two days to prove that an alternative would be a faster, more-efficient product.
When the two days had passed, the team reassembled, excited that they had come up with the best plan.
After the team shared their reasons, the executive didn’t hesitate to put her stamp of approval on the product, which ended up being very successful.
This is a great example of a leader who has the ability to shelve her ego so that her team could have the freedom to work together and come up with an even better end result.
Pushing your own ego aside isn’t a one-off kind of happening.
It has to be done again and again. And again.
But the results are infinitely better when you’re all working together for the good of a project.
The next time you’re leading a meeting, be intentional about throwing an idea out there for your team to brainstorm about!