By Marie Zimenoff
Career Thought Leaders & Resume Writing Academy
What does humility mean in the workplace? The concepts of humility, confidence, fear, and pride are used often in discussions about influence, leadership, and job search. Embodying these concepts can be challenging when you are applying for promotions or if you are in active job search.
If you do not highlight your value, no one will do it for you. How you do it reflects your essential qualities; it can add to your credibility or cause harm.
Much depends on what is appropriate for your audience and your communication style. You may have encountered leaders who hire people who can follow instructions and do the job while the leader is in charge. You probably also know hiring managers who might want to hire people who are good at self-promotion and putting themselves out there, for example, in sales.
This article will offer practical tips and questions you can ask yourself to help you phrase your value proposition.What is humility?
Let’s start by considering ideas about humility from military and sports leaders. Kyle Williams names humility among 5 key mindset qualities for athletes, defining humility as remaining hungry to keep improving. My favorite example: NFL quarterback Peyton Manning. He was always humble, just a student of the game, always striving to get better.
Humility has nothing to do with the concept of a ‘doormat’ but is about staying hungry and open to learning. A humble person is an intrinsically motivated person with an internal desire to grow. It is not just about winning; it is about becoming better. And you cannot get better if you overestimate your abilities.
Here is another quote by C.S. Lewis: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” I can think of successful business and sales trainers who teach people to focus on solving problems for customers. These trainers think of themselves less and more about the customers, making them feel valued. Humble is not equivalent to ‘meek’ or ‘weak’; it is open to new knowledge and putting others first.
Humility does not involve putting yourself down or lacking confidence; it is the idea that you do not put yourself above others. It is the authentic willingness to show that we do not know everything and we do not have all the answers. The problem is that sometimes the person witnessing humility or vulnerability in the workplace is not accepting of that, and crucial conversations may be impeded because those states of mind are not properly supported and understood.
It is something to recognize both within ourselves and within our teams or organizations and know when it is appropriate to be vulnerable. I will add that there are times when this could hurt depending on the organization’s culture. For leaders, it is essential to build trust and safety and learn how to handle other people’s humility and vulnerability for growth.
We sometimes see that a ‘strong’ leader who interrupts other people is being applauded. There is danger in that; effective leaders balance humility and confidence. Bill Gates said, “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they cannot lose.”
How is a humble and positive mindset of value?
First of all, get out of the ‘either/or’ mindset. Humility and confidence really go hand in hand. Confidence without humility runs the risk of coming off as arrogant and rude. Someone who is pushing too hard for something likely lacks confidence, and others see it right away.
Another component of humility is that you know what you want and you look forward to the next opportunity. Connecting with your own goals and your own meaning in work beyond your current role is essential. I see leaders who struggle with humility and confidence because they are fighting to keep their place. You can tell right away that this is not confidence; it is simply inflating one’s significance and protecting territory, which usually means lack of growth for them and those below.
When leaders are looking forward and staying connected to their own reasons for what they do, they can lead with humility and confidence. This is when they bring everyone else along with them. They free up time for their own growth while giving opportunities for others to take on new challenges, building a culture where worth is not connected to your current role but your desire to learn (humility + confidence!).
Organizations are constantly shifting and changing. Job seekers can get in this defensive mindset too, instead of talking about how they add value. Confidence is never about pushing someone else down. It is connecting to your own value and offering that value with clarity. From that place, promoting yourself becomes a relationship of equals where as a job seeker you are informing your potential colleagues about your path, what you want to do, and how you would like to grow.
Find a coach who can help you get clarity on your value.
It is important to remember that we all tend to overestimate our contributions. It is a defense mechanism. We all want to feel valued, and we tend to underestimate our contributions to failure. It helps to be real with yourself and define your strengths, your weaknesses, and your style. Where do you tend to go when you are stressed? What do you do to make yourself feel better? What are your defense mechanisms and how might they be working for you or against you? Looking inward as we respond to situations can help build our emotional intelligence.
How do you define your true confidence for yourself? How do you feel when your buttons are pushed? What is your process for keeping that in check? As a leader, your success depends on how you help others learn. In the organization, everyone’s success is intertwined. Recent research shows that without humility we are not able to learn, and of course we cannot adapt to change and be innovative if we are not learning.
Being a good communicator involves seeing what is important to someone else and communicating in a way that connects to them. Your ability to do that is a strength. Your awareness of what is happening in your social setting helps you adapt and lead others to achieve common goals. If we are not learning and growing, we are falling behind. Ready to define your value differently? Find A Personal Branding Strategist!
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