5 ways to turn Selfish into Selfless


Simply trawl through an average day of social media posts and you’ll see how selfish we have become. We can’t eat a meal or wake up with a cough without feeling the need to tell the world about it. Employees are only concerned with what they can ‘get’ out of their job; whilst sporting coaches contend with individuals who only ‘want’ more money, recognition and bigger contracts. What they can ‘give’ to their team has taken a distant back seat.

It has made the task of managing people extremely difficult.

The question is do we just give in to this selfishness and find a way to make it work for us? Or do we fight against it and say no, there is no place for selfishness in a successful organization? As easy as it would be to give in, the answer is not yet.

First, the concepts of teamwork, sacrifice and selflessness are ideals worth preserving. Secondly, great organizations are built on great ‘systems, not individual brilliance. Look at any corporate or sporting dynasty and it is the strength of the culture, not the individual that is the hallmark of longevity.

If you are a Manager or Coach grappling with how to turn a bunch of ‘selfish individuals’ into a ‘selfless team’ here are 5 ideas to consider:

  • You’re the problem. Look at the behaviors you ‘allow’ to occur and recognize that ‘you’ have let people get away with things for too long. Understand that for things to change you must choose to change.
  • Knock people off their pedestals. Stop being so dazzled by a person’s brilliance that you are blind to their flaws. See how their behavior stunts the growth of others and what disunity they bring to the team. Identify the ‘Showbags’ – the ones who look great on the outside, but inside they are full of crap.
  • Clearly define the rules. Even in professional sporting environments there will be vast differences between perceptions e.g. does ‘acting professionally’ mean no alcohol the night before a game, never during the season, it’s ok after games? Your rules need to be so clear that there is no room for interpretation. If you leave the rules open to interpretation you are giving the outliers ready-made excuses.
  • Use weight of numbers. Those who grasp what you are trying to build quickly will be your greatest assets. Spend 80% of your time with the 80% who get it. Not the other way around. Change is uncomfortable but you have to make it more uncomfortable not to change, than do the work required to change. Peer pressure is very important in forcing a change of mindset.
  • Keep the egos. Egos are important and a characteristic of high achievers. An ego makes you want to stand out, to be number 1, to step forward when the game is on the line. The key is to get the ego to strive towards being number 1 at the ‘things you deem important’. If selflessness is important then reward and recognize it heavily. The ego driven person will soon catch on and strive to be recognized – even if it is for selfish reasons. The behavior is what you are trying to change.

In the end the choice is yours. Do you want to leave a legacy that others can follow once you’re gone, or are you simply after short term wins. I know which option great leaders choose.

If you would like to know about our Leadership Programs, or how to get a free consultation with Nathan please go to Nathan Burke Consulting.


Nathan Burke is the founder of Nathan Burke Consulting – a Melbourne based firm that offers training and coaching solutions helping people and businesses achieve High Performance. Nathan is also the Head Coach of the Western Bulldogs AFLW team.

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