Today I bring you a guest post from LGL Tribe member, David Tumbarello. I often find his comments could be a post in themselves. His views on confident humility are so rich, I invited him to share more deeply. Thanks to LGL Tribe member, Joy Guthrie for the art.
Confident Humility: The Conversation Continues
My hope in writing this guest blog today is to respond to Karin Hurt’s post about Humility and Leadership.
I sat in the library yesterday, coaching a small herd of children in the art of writing well. After a shared warm-up activity and a rush of excitement, they returned to their seats with clipboards, paper, pencils, and electric conversation in the air. During the warm-up, we created a brainstorming tree that was taped to the ground, a play on the “choose your own story adventure” stories that are popular with kids. I sat on the table and took out my camera phone and snapped a picture of one of the girls on the ground. She was hard at work and I wanted to capture the moment, with the student, the notes, and the brain-work going on.
I thought about this picture earlier today. If I share the photo, I thought, would I be boasting about what I can accomplish as a writing coach? Or is it impossible for me to share the event and not say “Look at me”?
I work on projects during the day. My digital signature says “Project Manager”. I think about the work I do and what is required to get ahead. While I aspire to achieve more in my career, I also aspire to be humble. Is there a humble way I can take a picture of a project and showcase my work?
The answer is that as a humble leader, I need to point more at the project and less at myself. Being humble as a leader is similar to the fundamental tenant of project management – put emphasis on the process and the team. Most of the time, if a product fails to meet specifications, it is not the fault of an individual but of the process. Similarly, if I want to show off accomplishments to my supervisor, during a review for example, I can say, “Look at the project before & look at the project after. Here’s how I contributed.” Hold up the process and the team.
A humble leader can also be assertive in the job interview. The interview advice books say we should support our stories with statistics. In Thomas Taylor’s recent post on 3 Things You Must Say At Every Job Interview, he reminds his readers to use numbers – but not too many! – to emphasize accomplishments. In the interview, you might say, “I helped increase revenue by 14% and quality by 24%”. While the numbers may be true, how can you assert yourself with humility?
This is the humility dilemma: if we don’t showcase our accomplishments, someone else will showcase theirs. They will get the job. They will get ahead.
To respond to this dilemma, I offer a few keys to humility.
4 Keys to Humility
1. You are enough. I think that humility is one of the fundamental leadership qualities. It is a presence. It is knowing that you are enough. You are wise enough, smart enough, loved enough, strong enough, quick enough, energetic enough. You are all these things without outside validation
2. Be honest. Do not simply practice being honest, be honest in all you do, with everyone you meet, and with yourself. I’ll say it again – be honest. Are you ready for a challenge? Be honest and be consistent with who you are. Yes, it might be a challenge to run a 3:10 marathon. Maybe you can’t do it. So be honest. But if you can come within a few minutes and you want to break that barrier, use constructive words, “It will be a challenge, but I can.” That’s an honest affirmation.
3. Emphasize the process and the team. Instead of “I accomplished” say “We accomplished.” If you are looking for new work, I expect you to write a convincing resume and to interview with confidence. I expect you to show you are better than the competition. Assert yourself by saying, “I led. I delegated. I mentored. I helped reduce waste. My program increased customer satisfaction.” Showcase your accomplishments, but continually hold up the process and the team.
4. Finally, give. This is the fundamental message of most major religions. Give. I don’t like the cliché “Giving is its own reward.” Remove the cliche & you’re left with “Give.” Why should you give? It is about character. Your career and your life, they are not about you – they are about what you contribute. Do you see the difference? Life is not about lifting myself up. Life is about lifting up others. Smile. Open doors. Share eye contact. Leave loose change. When you give, you extend a web of humility.
When we do these things, we are practicing humility. As I finish writing this, I wonder, “Am I the right person to be writing a guest post on humility?” If you ask yourself similar questions while excelling in your career, you are practicing humility and probably doing something very, very right.