No Ego: How Cutting Drama Makes HR Work

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A few years ago, I decided to put an early end to my career in Human Resources. I had found myself in a department where drama and tantrums coexisted – something I never aimed for in my career. The main responsibilities were looking-alike to running a daycare. There were no clear expectations for the team, and we were overpromising things that we wouldn’t realistically execute. It created a workplace that emphasized venting, listening to, and seeking gossip at every corner of the office. That is not what I wanted to be part of, and without being able to change anything, I decided to quit. Fast-forward 2 years, and I have returned to Big Bang part of the Human Resources department. Today, I am fulfilled in my role and my peers are happier. What changed? Our approach.

Discovering the No-Ego Approach to HR

As most people know among my colleagues, I read a lot. I have a background in Arts & Literature and Professional Writing, so I kind of always have my nose in a book. During my unemployment, it was no different. I devoured many books, many of which were related to relationships and behaviors in organizations. One day, I came across the book No Ego by Cy Wakeman, a psychologist studying the cost of drama in organizations. The first few pages struck me: I could map many situations that were happening at Big Bang. I could hear colleagues say the same sentences; I could transpose all of our organization’s drama in that book and relate. It was like a revelation. And some weeks later, copies were already sitting on a few tables at the office – as I had suggested to the CEO and leadership to read in my absence. Fast-forward to the present, No Ego has become one of my bibles, the book that I always return to, the foundation that every organization should build on. And since I don’t only read to read, I implement what I can. That’s what we decided to do when I came back to Big Bang:

Create a high-accountability and low drama workplace.

My First Guinea Pigs: The Leaders

People often repeat, like children, the behaviors we see from our parents, and organizations work similarly. Managers act in a certain way. Over time, we begin to behave the same way as our colleagues, without even realizing it. We adopt both good or bad habits, but the idea is we need to stay aware of how we respond to each other – especially how we react to the feedback from each other.  By now, I understood that having a culture where everyone would be accountable and use the power of the leadership within themselves would equate to our organization being better aligned with our values and drive better results.

Indeed, the Management Team was no exception in this story. The No-Ego approach needed to start at the top to ensure we would instill a workplace free of drama, rather than just talking about it. With this, we created an HR Tips session for the leadership team. The first session covered the No Ego book, all in under 10 minutes. Everyone was excited to learn more. The ten minutes extended to a session of more than 30 minutes. A lot of things came out between the directors – including some laughs recognizing themselves in some examples as they uncovered for themselves we were drowning in the full-ego. This session was such a success that we decided to build our 2020 Epics and some of our supporting quarterly Rocks around the No-Ego principal. They included: back to basics, facts-first, no-ego, no-drama, setting proper expectations, and most of all, accountability.

The Cherry on Top: I Met Cy Wakeman

Each year, we have what we call the Corporate Retreat. We’ve been to many places in Quebec over the years, like l’Esterel and Mont Saint-Sauveur. We also had the chance to have our Mauritius team join us in Sacacomie. Our Corporate Retreat is one of the events the team looks forward to every year. We leave at sunrise, and we first have our company meeting. We then have team activities like building rafts, racing dragon boats, pitching new areas to improve (like the office chairs), or dressing up in costumes and assembling catapults. We end the day with a celebratory dinner, where we commemorate employee milestones, including anniversaries,  promotions, and important proud moments, and laugh about the life of being a Big Bang-er. It’s a way for us to thank employees for their hard work and focus on evolving our employees and teams. Although all of this seems like fun, we also insist on leaving with something concrete, which always translates into one key sentence, such as:

Create magic moments, think like a customer, and act like a leader.

That’s why we always welcome a Guest Speaker. This year, we had the chance to virtually welcome Cy Wakeman, author of my most preferred book No Ego. She presented a workshop on how we can cut the cost of drama, foster accountability, and drive big results to all our team. All this while we got to enjoy the beautiful retreat location of Mont-Tremblant.

3 Key “No Ego” Lessons

1 – Stop believing everything you think

We’ve learned that what we believe isn’t always true – and worst, it can hurt us. How often has this happened in your career that you had an unexpected meeting with your boss, and imagine the worst stories? “I’m going to get fired” or “What did I do wrong?” These stories create a lot of unnecessary things, like stress and harm to yourself. That’s why it is so important to establish the truth and not get lost in your fabricated thoughts. It’s essential to refocus on facts. In this case: I have a meeting with my boss. End of the story. Everything else that comes after is mostly made-up in your head. Next time you have an impromptu meeting, or that something comes up and you start panicking, just self-reflect on why it makes you feel that way, and shift your mind to facts only: What do I know for sure?

2 – What am I doing to help the situation?

Bringing your accountability to the table also means putting the team’s and company’s interests ahead of your own from time to time. Individuals need to reflect and see what you can do to help. Once in a while, our ego becomes the ultimate leader of our actions. Instead of helping a colleague, instead of solving a challenge, our self-reflection goes off. We decide to criticize the way of doing things, our colleagues’ capacities, or why we are hiring so many employees during a pandemic (true story). You need to be part of the equation by asking yourself what you can do to improve the situation or help achieve these goals. By doing so, you establish the impact that you can have on the results by being a part of the solution. Stop complaining by the sidelines, get in the game, and help the team win.

3 – What would “great” look like?

Our third lesson learned incorporates the previous ones, making it one of the most important takeaways. By establishing facts and systematically adding ourselves to the equation without judgment, we can set the destination: what would great look like? We’re not talking about unicorns here or some extravagant greatness, but only what would be the best outcome (stay grounded, please!) for a given situation. So, let’s say your colleague is taking too much time to complete a task. You could always just vent about them taking so long, or you could reflect on what “great” looks like: Be great by lending a hand, unblocking other tasks, redefining timelines, or anything else that makes the situation “great” for the organization!

In Summary

It’s been:

  • one year since my return to Big Bang
  • one book that changed our approach
  • one month since our team experienced the High-Accountability/No Ego workshop in Mont-Tremblant

The impact? Felt and welcomed. We finished the quarter having checked off the goal of “positive culture shift” as part of our annual priority of Employee Development.

Why does being “No-Ego” create more positivity in the workplace? Well, if you think about it, we’ve managed to learn about how our minds create false stories and drama and harm. We’ve also learned to consider adding ourselves to the equation and imagining would be the best outcome for any situation. So, guess what? We started being the greatest version of ourselves, adding our accountability to the company’s different initiatives by encouraging our peers and by being more present for each and one of us. There is no finger-pointing but a general vibe of helping each other and evolving continuously. I’ve never been happier to be part of the HR team because now we really can help our team become the best professionals they can be.

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No Ego: How Cutting Drama Makes HR Work

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