I have a bird feeder outside one of my windows, and though I don’t often make time for it, I deeply enjoy watching the birds that visit. Regulars include cardinals, a red-bellied woodpecker, the occasional blue jay, chickadees, titmouses, and doves, always doves. The doves feed on the ground, they pick from the seeds the others scatter from above. I like the doves, the seem conscientious and calm.
While I watched this morning, I noticed something I had not seen prior. Usually the doves just hop around and eat their seeds and largely ignore one another, in what seems to me a respectful disinterest. Today, one hopped aggressively after the others, his feathers fluffed and chest puffed out. He acted like a little bully, chasing the others away from the plentiful food.
I wondered what made him seem so threatened that he needed to act that way toward the others. I thought about self-awareness. I found myself thinking about the times that I had been on a team, or in a work group, and how I may have behaved toward my peers.
Most of us, regardless of our role, work in some sort of a team or group setting. How do you act toward your teammates? Do you find yourself acting like this dove, needing to establish your success at the expense of others? I know that at past points in my life, I certainly treated co-workers as competition. At those points, I struggled to see how “we” could be greater than “me”; I struggled to see how our work accomplished a single goal. I won’t blame that on my leadership at the time, but I do think that leadership could have influenced how we worked together.
In coaching, one of the tenets has to do with people acting in their own interest. We all do it, the variance comes in how we do it, how well we do it, and how much awareness of it we have. This morning, all of the doves acted in their own interest, but this puffed-up dove, he acted in his interest to the detriment of others. The way he acted stepped past self-interest into selfishness.
As a leader, how do you experience the other leaders in your section, or in your department? Do you see them as collaborators or competition? How do you encourage your team to act toward each other? What behavior do you model for team, for your peers?
Self-interest exists, selfishness doesn’t have to.