Five Ways to Maintain Humility in Business

Why is Humility is Important in Business?

One day I got a call from a female prospect. During the conversation, the prospect told me she was impressed by my recent professional achievements and wanted to learn more about me through a discovery call.  She researched me on Linkedin before I could even pitch myself!

People have the ability to learn everything about you in today’s Information Age. Those initial impressions can be good or bad, depending on the information that is published. With the stakes so high, we need to do everything possible to prevent us from being discredited.

The key to success in business is maintaining an attitude of humility. Humility will prevent you from embarrassing yourself in front of others.

I want to share with you the story of Amy Taft*, an entrepreneurial coach and political activist. Amy had a very public shamming that could have permanently damaged her reputation. Avoid falling into Amy’s trap by maintaining an attitude of humility. I will provide you five ways to do this after I share her story.

The Wild West of Twitter

If you have ever spent time on Twitter, then you have realized that people can be less than kind to one another. It appears that under the cloak of anonymity, people have the courage to say things they would have never uttered to another person in the real world. I was shocked to see how mean and callous people can be on Twitter. It was especially shocking to see celebrities, politicians and other famous people callously insulting others online.

About Amy

One of the first people I initially followed on Twitter was Amy Taft.

I loved Amy’s firebrand personality and provocative posts. In addition, she was connected with high profile personalities. Unfortunately, Amy had a bit of an ego. Each one of her followers she called a “darling.” Every weekday, she would host a “twitter class” for her darlings to learn important topics in business and political activism. In addition, she took great pride to remind others about the number of darlings who would follower her each week.

Despite her bold and fiery personality, I unfollowed her because I grew tired of her frequently shaming people who questioned or disagreed with her ideas. And I never saw her cede humility when someone brought up a valid argument that refuted her claims.

Good leaders will admit when they are wrong. Amy rarely, if ever, did that.

Public Shaming Via Twitter

After I choose to unfollow her, I still maintained contact with her because we are in the same social circle. Eventually Amy decided to follow me. One day, I saw a post that rocked our social segment online.

The post read, “Amy is a bad person who had sex with children.”

WHAT?!

A subsequent onslaught of posts, including mugshots and news articles ensued. Those posts had detailed information about her sexual relationship with a male student while she was a teacher at a high school. However, due to a plea bargain agreement, Amy was not placed on the sex offender registry.

As you can expect, the news was shocking and embarrassing. It was a public shamming via twitter. The news was shared by several high profile personalities who chose less than kind words to shame and discredit Amy.

She went into damage control by locking down her account, changing her name, and then unlocking her account with a new name. Then she wrote a detailed post on her website that poorly explained her case and why she choose not to address the issue earlier.

Before the outing, several people encouraged her to be forthcoming with her past with others. While she discussed it with individuals, she never made a public statement prior to this incident. For some, the damage control made permanently discredited her. Her die hard followers continued to advocate and support her.

Unfortunately, Amy did not learn anything from that very public incident. Less than two weeks later, she was back at publicly shaming others who disagreed with her.

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Why Humility Is Necessary

Amy’s story is an important lesson in humility. Amy’s ego prevented her from seeing herself in a sober light. Sober meaning that she did not look at herself too highly or lowly. When she was confronted about her past, she ran away and came back just as egotistical as she once was. I recently saw a post from Amy where she told someone to, “go have a seat and stop saying stupid things.” That is no way to show leadership and maintain an attitude of humility.

Egotism has no place in leadership. Leaders need to be able to be okay with their successes as well as failures, past shortcomings and character defects. Below are five ways to help keep yourself sober, regardless of your level of success.

Five Ways to Maintain Humility

Step One: Be okay with your shortcomings

Step Two: Take the Ls and Ws with the same stride

Step Three: Maintain friendships with humble people

Step Four: Maintain a servant heart

Step Five: Avoid elevating yourself and focus on your craft

Step One: Be okay with your shortcomings

Unless you are a walking incarnation of Jesus Christ himself, expect to make a failure in the future. This is important especially within the public sphere. As you rise in public visibility, so will the rise in level of the scrutiny. Humility allows you to quickly and swiftly deal with a public crisis.

No one is perfect. Being okay with your shortcomings means not deflecting from areas that need improvement in your life. For example, if you are short tempered and easily angered, that means that you need to schedule or “bake in” decompression times where you can relax and reflect about your day. This is essential to help prevent burnout.

If you have a problem with envy, then you need to constantly practice thanksgiving. Those who suffer from chronic envy have a habit of minimizing the good things in their lives and magnifying what they perceive others have.

Regardless of your shortcomings, instead of ignoring them, find ways to mitigate or minimize their negative impacts in your professional and personal life.

Step Two: Take the Ls and Ws with the same stride

The losses (Ls) and wins (Ws) are different sides of the same coin. Depending on how big the W or L is, it can have a tremendous impact on your psyche or mindset. My advice to you is to not to elevate either one in your mind.

Yes. You read that correct. Do not elevate the good nor the bad.

We live in an age where you are only as good as the last thing you did. Escape that rat race and ask yourself these questions after each event (regardless of achievement or failure):

What did I did great?

Where could I have improved?

Did I miss something important while doing x or y?

When you pivot your mind away from the praises and condemnations to learning and self-reflection, you will be able to view things realistically. 

Yes, we want to be able to be affirmed by others, but what point is it to have affirmation when your actions potentially harm yourself or others? Always allow yourself to reflect critically on your actions and make sure they are aligned with your values.

Have you heard of the expression, the faster they rise and the harder they fall? In Roderick Kramer’s article “The Harder They Fall,”  he explains the “the genius-to-folly syndrome” principle. Successful leaders who stay in power and maintain peace keep five particular habits: keep simple lives, recognize and even direct attention to their weaknesses, float trial balloons regularly, sweat the small stuff (examine shortcomings), and take time for reflection.

Humble leaders are in the constant habit of self reflection and examination. Surrounded yourself with people who can give and receive constructive criticism.

Step Three: Maintain friendships with humble people

I have never met a humble person associate with arrogant, envious and jealous people. Why? Humble personalities do not mesh (or vibe) well with arrogant and prideful people. While we want to feel confident and self assured, we also want to be surrounded by people who can give and receive constructive criticism.

If you have not done so already, start surrounding yourself with honest and humble people. Those are the people who will be the first to inform you of dangers seen and unseen. Humble people usually want to help others become better.

Step Four: Maintain a servant heart

Business owners are not just problem solvers. They are helpers. You are in the business of constantly looking to help your clients solve problems in their personal and professional lives. Maintaining a servant heart involves stepping out from your mindset and viewing circumstances from another vantage point. This constantly involves asking your clients (and staff) probing questions. Below are some examples:

Is this service/product/program still working for you?

Do you need more assistance? Is so, what do you specifically need?

When did you know this problem was not working for you?

What do you need to know that others are not providing?

And get into the habit of filling in the gap. Fill in what others are not providing currently. Constantly ask others which tools they might need to help them perform better professionally (and if applicable, personal life).

People instinctively recognize greatness in leaders.

Step Five: Avoid elevating yourself and focus on your craft

Avoid falling into the trap of elevating your profile. Leaders do not need to elevate themself because they know that at a moments notice everything can be taken away. True leaders are not clout chasers. They are not looking to constantly be photographed and recorded at every opportunity. True leaders are too busy helping to improve their craft.

As I mentioned above, Amy is an example of a false leader. Her preoccupation with her clout and online status has blinded her completely to her personal shortcomings. No level of clout can teach you to constantly improve and refine your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses and shortcomings. Avoid this trap.

As a business owner and leader, you must get into the habit of keeping your head focused on helping those around you. People will instinctively recognize greatness. Let them be your cheerleaders along the way.

Your job as a leader is simply to continue to grow and develop.

Your fame can go away in a moment’s notice, but if you continue to focus on your craft, you can always rebuild and rebrand yourself at a later time.

 

*name was changed to protect identity

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