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The Problem with Egos

By John P. (Pat) Philbin, Ph.D., PMP

President & CEO

I just finished reading No Ego by Cy Wakeman and was struck by its simplicity and common sense approach to create the conditions that help enhance business readiness by, among other things, reducing “drama” in the workplace. As a former family therapist, Cy’s insight on human behavior has enormous potential to create organizations that are solution-oriented, reality-based and have a bias to change. Her Reality-Based Leadership framework creates accountability, commitment, and ownership.

One of her early insights was the notion of “Open Door” policies by supervisors that resulted in enabling behavior relieving the person who sought the meeting of the accountability to act in a manner that would resolve the issue at hand. Rather than helping the person consider options, the supervisor willingly took ownership of the challenge thereby letting the person “off the hook” so to speak.

One of the many myths that Cy challenges in the book is that leaders are “in charge of employee engagement.” The underlying fallacy she reveals is that this can only be accomplished with the willingness of the employee to be engaged! Further, she concludes that “Engagement without accountability creates entitlement.” One of her many solutions: Challenge others to be great…without enabling them.

In surveying the myriad challenges in the world, the rising lack of civil discourse and tolerance—driven by emotionally charged rhetoric with little basis in fact—creates a toxic environment that allows egos to undermine efforts to focus on solutions.

What if…

  • I focused on understanding truth?

  • I thought critically?

  • I was honest with myself and others?

  • I committed?

  • I owned?

  • I was accountable?

  • I refused to rationalize?

  • I trusted?

  • I challenged?

One of the characteristics of personal engagement most important to people is the ability to have a stake in the outcome—if only psychological. Cy posits that we have everything we need already; unfortunately, we let egos hijack our thinking, our relationships, our decisions, and, consequently, the outcomes.

So what?

Radical candor absent ego allows pursuit of truth, which significantly enhances optimal decisions—but such an approach to inquiry requires an enormous amount of trust in each other and organizations and humility in ourselves because the reality is that we have little influence and control of others.

For our team, as we make our Vivid Vision a reality, we must commit, own and be accountable for those things that we can and resist the temptation to allow egos to cloud our critical thinking and decision-making. For our company leaders, managers, and others, I encourage you to set aside a few hours and read No Egos—it’s worth your time.

Best regards and be well,



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