You’ve probably heard of the term “Selfie”, recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary online (in August of 2013). You may even have watched the Oscars where Ellen DeGeneres took a group selfie with other celebrities, ultimately crashing twitter with the volume of re-tweets. For those few still not in the know, a selfie is a picture taken of oneself, usually with a cell phone camera, and in many ways it is the digital equivalent of saying, “Look at me!” (and ‘Like’ me, while you’re at it).
Managing or Working with “Selfieism” on Your Team
From the antics of Justin Bieber, to fake paparazzi for hire, to the insanity of the “Knock Out Game” (where youth jump an unsuspecting victim and try to knock them out with one punch, for their own entertainment), there seems to be a saturation of “Selfieism” in the current culture. Arguably, this obsession with self has grown in recent times. A study of 37,000 students showed that narcissistic personality traits are rising faster than obesity – especially in women. If you earned a dollar for every picture you found online of a teenage girl with her arm extended, or facing the bathroom mirror, you could be a millionaire before breakfast.
In the book The Narcissism Epidemic, by Twenge and Campbell, the authors mention that the inflated opinion of self applies to everyone, from teenagers and celebrities to political leaders (such as those in the Ukraine, Egypt, Syria, or Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford, who refuses to resign). It truly is a global concern, and is manifesting itself in entitlement issues in the workplace, and bullying in the schools. Unsurprisingly, it is also now common to hear stories of poor service across a variety of industries, most of which can be explained by a self-focused service agent or waiter who places less value on the needs of the customer. I often think back to a conversation I had with one senior executive just before his retirement, who said, “when I was starting out in my career, we didn’t need service training to teach us how to be nice to people.”
Organizations that successfully harness and coach for a productive “We” vs. “Me” culture will extend that attitude to their customers, adding significant value.
3 Things to Consider
- Hire for “We” attitude.
Especially in service-related areas, look for candidates that value a team culture rather than the lone star approach. Seek out those who like contributing their talents for the benefit of others. Don’t make the mistake of hiring for skills and training for attitude.
- Use Metrics where possible.
In the hiring process there are a number of psychometric instruments that can assist in bringing on top team talent. There are also team/departmental metrics available, as well as 360 Feedback for managers. When a manager sees himself as a great listener, but the entire team says otherwise via 360 Feedback, it can (when properly handled) create self-awareness and an opportunity to coach for change.
- Fire the extreme instances of Super Selfie.
We saw this at a client several years ago: a prima donna sales manager was despised by many he worked with. HR could see the high turnover on his team, and even the warehouse staff was complaining about his rude, arrogant approach. The challenge was that customers loved him! Translation: he adapted his behavior only for those he saw as contributing to his bonus. He was so self-absorbed that he failed to see the role of other team members in his success. After many attempts at coaching, the National Sales VP eventually had to coach him to “be successful somewhere else.” His area’s turnover dropped, and sales increased beyond industry average within 12 months of this “Selfie’s” departure.
In Daniel Goleman’s recent book, Focus, he states that successful leaders must cultivate and monitor awareness in 3 main areas: Self-awareness, understanding others, and understanding the greater context. It doesn’t take any great insight to realize that if you are only focused on yourself, you are missing a lot of the picture.
I didn’t watch the Oscars, but I certainly saw many mentions of it in the press the next day. Seems to me that the good thing about Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar selfie was that it wasn’t intended as an individual “look at me!” moment. It was a team selfie, more of a: “Hey, this is cool, here we are at the Oscars! Wish you were here…” which she then shared with the world. Leadership and organizations that embed a team (vs. self) oriented culture directed at serving others will ultimately gain a lot more positive word-of-mouth exposure than any individual “selfie” can provide.