Humility in the workplace is often an overlooked quality but one that is vital no matter what the position – from top to bottom it is integral to a company’s success. An environment of “I” and “me” vs “team” and “we” creates a negative culture of unhealthy competition.
What do you do when you have an employee that cannot embrace the cooperative effort of many that led to the win/positive outcome? Some employees may not organically exhibit the trait of humility.
While I might consider humility to be more of an innate quality – with the right leadership and coaching it can be nurtured. A recent Forbes article noted “A humble leader is secure enough to recognize his or her weaknesses and to seek the input and talents of others. By being receptive to outside ideas and assistance, creative leaders open up new avenues for the organization and for their employees.”
So how do managers lead by example when it comes to humility:
- Be honest with themselves and with their team
- Be open to others’ opinions including those of direct reports
- Don’t micromanage – let people do their jobs
- Genuinely care about employees – not only their work but also their work environment and them as people
While at SHRM 2017 earlier this year, I had the opportunity to see Patrick Lencioni of The Table Group speak about the three qualities that make an ideal team player – humility, hunger, and people smarts.
He certainly made the case as to why a balance of each of these qualities in an employee are vastly important to the success of an organization. Patrick states, “People who lack humility in a significant way, the ones who demand a disproportionate amount of attention, are dangerous for a team. Having said that, humble team players are not afraid to honestly acknowledge the skills and talents that they bring to the team, though never in a proud or boastful way.”
An employee that has the ability to collaborate, encourage and accept cross departmental support to achieve the company’s desired goals vs go it alone to achieve glory is far more valuable to an organization. A manager that has the know-how to evoke that in their team is worth keeping.
But food for thought – for those employees that don’t seem to have a natural proclivity towards humility – sometimes a pat on the back and recognition of a job well done can help lead them there. Employees may just need to know that they are on the right path before they have the confidence to embrace and act with humility. Craving recognition does not make one less humble it just makes them human. As managers, we need to be mindful that not only do we need to be humble but also be generous with praise.