Recently, I witnessed a transition from having a high personal ego to a team ego. The individual ego was causing low delivery speed, lack of team spirit, and many conflicts. When the team ego started to beat the personal one, the sun shone again, and the worst team became the best. Today I'm going to talk about the differences, what we did and how we achieved.
Team spirit is often referred to as everyone playing with the team, not in the team. Collins dictionary defines team spirit as "the feeling of pride and loyalty that exists among the members of a team and that makes them want their team to do well or to be the best."
When team members have a personal ego, they put the best interest on themselves. If everyone starts to behave like they are the most critical person in the team, nobody wants to collaborate. People don't take criticism easily and are not open to being influenced. When a person competes with others, nobody helps them. Only when they compete with themselves, everyone helps each other.
When there is a team ego where everyone is competing with themselves, everyone takes pride in what they do together and want to present their success to everyone. In sports teams, pride represents itself as competing with other groups, but in software organizations, it is rather feeling an honor and being part of something bigger.
The proud team usually tends to take pride in the whole company because the entire company represents the product they are building.
We know examples like Apple in the 90s where the teams were competing with each other, and the organization was structured according to the product lines. Managers' control over the whole product from development to sales and marketing gave birth to many personal ego fights because their products had to be more successful than others.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he laid off all high-level managers and changed the organizational structure to functional units in one day. With this structure, only the CEO has control over the entire product line.
Moving away from personal ego was one of the many reasons behind Apple's success, and Apple still keeps the same structure. Whenever I talked with Apple engineers in conferences, they were proud of the whole company and being part of the team, even though they didn't work in every aspect of the product.
Building a team ego is not an easy task; it has many aspects. But usually, there are small but impactful movements. First and foremost, have a clear team purpose. What is the mission of the team? Why are you together? What are you trying to achieve? Find your clear purpose and write it down in a memorable way.
Celebrate. Pride starts with celebrating everything you achieve, whether big or small.
Look for ways to create a care mechanism. Invest in people. You will be cared for as much as you care for others. It starts with you. You get back what you give.
These three are the most important ones that apply to every team. Of course, as a team, you will have many ups and downs; how you get through them will define which type of ego you will build.