I’m on a quest. Since first reading Jim Collins’ (Good to Great) description of Level 5 Leadership as a paradoxical combination of personal humility and professional will, I’ve searched for the answer to one question:
How can we best develop personal humility in the workplace?
Let me be clear right up front: I don’t have the answer. I may never have the answer. There may not be one definitive answer. But that won’t stop my search. Here’s a brief update.
Focus on Cause
Ask yourself, “where is my focus?” Humility takes us beyond our careers, beyond our organizations, and rests on the greater cause for which our organization was founded. Focusing on something greater than ourselves and our organizations releases us from blind loyalties to worn-out programs and lays the foundation for collaboration and collective impact.
It also takes us beyond today…or this quarter…or this year. Adopting the long view – beyond the short-term, even beyond our career-term – nurtures a perspective built more on stewardship than achievement.
Listen to yourself
Find some uninterrupted span of time and ask yourself, “what are my deeply held values and beliefs?” Stress, discontent, and all-around crotchety behavior often is rooted in the disconnect between our deeply held values and our actions. It’s difficult to diagnose because we don’t often find the space to clearly listen to the quiet voice inside – the one that knows us best.
Regularly listening to that voice, considering what it has to say and aligning our actions with it creates a personal integrity that helps us own our actions. It moves us beyond what we think we should do or what others suggest we do, to the place of what we believe is right to do. Actions grounded in humility also build courage, fortitude, and resilience.
Meet with people
Commonly asked questions at ONEplace include, “How do I…:” Increase donor contributions? Improve board recruitment? Focus my communications? Better supervise my staff? Connect more with the community?
The answer to all these questions is some form of: do what best serves the people involved. This means we need to get to know the people involved.
If you are overwhelmed by tasks, buried in reports, tied to your technology, stuck in the office, etc., then you may need to reassess. Nothing trumps face-to-face interaction when it comes to fundraising, board development, improved communications, better supervision, community connections, etc. Nothing. Above all, it’s about people.
What’s this have to do with humility? Knowing others – their circumstances, their stories – reveals the randomness of life events, puts our perspective into the kaleidoscope of varied viewpoints, and underscores the layers of interdependence that exist even within a small community.
So ends the update – brief and incomplete. The quest continues.