Action!

The set was ready. Costumes were amazing. Props, lights, mics, cameras were all ready. The actors were in place to begin shooting the first scene of director Phil Martin’s expected new blockbuster film. The anticipation was electric when Mr. Martin called out, “Action,” but nothing happened. Johnny Jones, the lead in the film, just walked off the set, went over to the catering table, picked up a muffin and asked one of the grips how his costume looked. “Cut!” Mr. Martin was livid. Wondering if they had cast the right actor for the lead role, he stormed over to Johnny Jones to find out what was going on.

The story is fictional (in case you couldn’t tell). Could you imagine something like that happening? That kind of thing happens all the time. Individuals and Teams spend hours dreaming and thousands of dollars (or more) planning, making preparations, and strategizing but never do anything. Why? Fear mostly. Fear is the great paralyze-r and the great demoralize-r.

What are we Afraid of?

Here’s a list of four great fears:

  1. Being taken advantage of – if I take action someone else might use my work for their own benefit. I might not get credit for my ideas and effort. I will lose out.
  2. Rejection – what if I make a mistake? The ultimate rejection is being fired. I can’t afford to lose this job.
  3. Loss of security – this is way outside my comfort zone. I’m not sure what to do next if I take this step.
  4. Criticism – I need my peers (or boss) to recognize my value. What if they don’t agree with my action? They might think I’m a liability.

If you recognize yourself in any of those fears, you’re not alone. These are the primary fears of each of the four primary personality types and we all fall into at least one of them.

In my fictional story about the actor Johnny Jones, the conversation would have gone on between he and Mr. Martin about Jones “just not feeling ready.” He has a combination of the fear of rejection and criticism.

Just Do It

Nike made this their slogan for an incredibly successful ad campaign. It was so successful because of how it resonated with people across the board. The slogan challenged us to take action in the face of our fears. It made us dream of being successful.

Conrad Hilton, founder of the Hilton Hotel chain, said, “Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes but don’t quit.” Of course we’ll make mistakes. I’ve recently been working with a group who have a history of decision paralysis for fear of making a mistake (read, “getting in trouble”). The message to them is that it’s better to act. If you make a decision that leaders disagree with, learn and keep going.

Edward Muzio, author and CEO of Group Harmonics, titled a recent Huffpost article “Fail Forward Fast [Get over being right and get on with getting on with it]”

When a plane departs on a flight, the destination and route are set. All the appropriate planning has taken place, so the pilot powers up the engines and takes off. Did you know that during the course of that flight the plane will be off course 90 percent of the time? Weather conditions, turbulence, and other factors cause it to veer off so the pilot is constantly course correcting throughout the journey.

The U.S. Marines talk about the 70% solution. They know that, in battle, quick and decisive are more powerful than fully informed most of the time. They work hard to streamline their intelligence gathering and decision making timelines but choose to act even when only 70% certain of the situation. Victory usually ensues.

Whatever it is you’re mulling over, whether you’re waiting for more information or a better time, Buy it, sell it, quit it, join it, call it, write it …. Do it! Take Action.

Trust Me!

Yikes! Would you trust him? I’m not sure I would. Although, she seems to be on the board of her own free will and there appear to be at least four successful attempts so far. Still, one wrong move and she’s a goner. The stakes are as high as they get in this relationship. Fortunately, the stakes aren’t nearly that high in most of our relationships. Yet, it seems there is less trust in many of our relationships, especially at work, than there is between these two.

I’ve written on Trust in previous posts. I wrote about the Engager Dynamic called Trust. Later I wrote about How to make a Habit of Trust. Trust is so critical to work that I’m compelled to write about it again. In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey says that the true equation for Results is (Strategy x Execution) x Trust = Results. In that equation low trust is like a tax that diminishes your results and high trust is like a dividend that increases your results. It’s that important.

Credibility Gap

Covey writes about Four Core elements of Self-Trust which he says is all about credibility. The elements are Integrity, Intent, Capabilities, and Results. In my experience the question of Intent seems crucial. The new COO of an organization recently distributed his written leadership philosophy. It contained the statement, “We judge ourselves by our intent. Others judge us by our behavior.”

Intent is someone’s planned or desired outcome. Behavior is the manifestation of one’s Agenda and Motive which, hopefully, fully and accurately represent their intent. The COO’s point is that all anyone has to go on when deciding on your credibility is your behavior. They can only discern your intent by what they see you do. Covey makes the great point that often trust is depleted simply because of a poorly executed good intent. The intentions were noble but the behavior failed to accurately reflect the intention. When that happens people interpret the intent by the poorly executed behavior. At best they are confused. At worst they become suspicious of your intent and trust evaporates.

Several weeks ago, I was on a conference call with some corporate leaders. In the room with me were 8 – 10 other team members on speaker phone. One of the corporate leaders congratulated me for a particular accomplishment. I had done none of the actual work to achieve the celebrated outcome so my intent was to give credit where credit was due and I quickly named off the people in the room who had actually achieved that result, except one. I still don’t know how I left that person’s name out but that was a poorly executed good intent.  Later, I apologized but I can never get that moment back.

Prevention

On Covey’s list of the core elements of credibility, intent is the least obvious to the observer. Integrity, capabilities, and results are much easier to see from the outside. It’s the questions about intent, especially for a boss, that cause so much energy to be wasted on suspicion and CYA when trust is low. If someone doesn’t trust their bosses intentions, they will be less productive because they’re wasting time and energy trying to figure out what s/he is up to and planning their next move like a chess player.

There are at least two things you can do to prevent misunderstanding about your intentions. First, declare your intentions. When you take an action or make a decision, let people know what your intentions are for that action. That way, when they recognize the outcome you intended, your credibility goes up.

The second thing you can do is to invite feedback. Don’t assume people will come to you and let you know they are confused about your intentions. Establish yourself as an open person by inviting and then graciously receiving feedback. Do that enough times and people will come to you voluntarily with their feedback. That’s how I found out I had left the person off the list on that conference call. They came to me after the call and told me. They only did that because they knew I was open to feedback.

Cure

By the way, those two steps are also helpful in repairing trust that has been broken. It most likely will have to be in the reverse order, though. Invite feedback when you believe trust is low. You may have to examine and adjust your intent, motive, or agenda to regain credibility. If so, say so. Otherwise explain your intent and make restitution for any harm poor execution may have caused.

Covey’s “Waves of Trust” are a ripple effect starting with one’s personal credibility, which impacts relationship trust, organizational trust, market trust, and finally societal trust. We have a crisis of trust all around us. Don’t let it prevail in your organization. Take steps to establish your credibility. As Ghandi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

Stay In Your Lane

When I was in Junior High and High School, I ran track. Back then races were measured in yards and I did the 100, the 220, the 440 relay and the Long Jump. When you do sprints, you learn pretty quickly that you have to stay in your lane. In fact, if you veer out of your lane, you will be disqualified from the race because it’s very dangerous to be running as fast as you can and have someone bump into you or clip your heel.

Another place where it’s important to stay in your lane is traffic. In fact, you will often see road signs telling you to stay in your lane. There is road construction right now on the highway that goes through our town and they’ve painted solid white lane lines through part of it to remind drivers to stay in their lanes through that part. It involves a lane shift and accidents can happen if people change lanes through there.

What Are They Afraid Of?

I understand, in Track and Field and traffic, why people should stay in their lanes. But what about in organizations? I’ve heard the same admonishment given to people who voiced an idea about something that wasn’t necessarily in their “lane.” The phrase, “Stay in your lane,” is defined in the urban and in the slang dictionary as: “mind your own business, don’t veer over into my (personal) affairs.” Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary says,”The phrase stay in your lane is used as a term of admonishment or advice against those who express thoughts or opinions on a subject about which they are viewed as having insufficient knowledge or ability.”

In organizations, we hire people to perform certain job functions. We need those functions done well so we hire people with related skills and experience. We expect them to focus their time and energy on those functions for which we hired them. When they get out of that “lane,” we fear their primary job function will suffer. We also fear their ideas or advice may be detrimental to the organization if it’s not their area of expertise.

Are You More Than Your Lane?

I guess I don’t want a mechanic giving me advice on taking care of my heart. But, wait, what if that mechanic had recently experienced a heart attack and was sharing with me some things they learned from their cardiologist, helpful changes they’ve made in their own life? Would that change your openness to their advice? It would mine.

I believe, when we require people to “stay in their lanes,” we short change the organization. Everyone who works there is far more, and brings far more to the table than just what is in their “lane.” Their past work experiences, their education, their life experience outside of work all bring potential value to the work at hand. Even their temperament type and their approach to work can add value across lanes.

In one organization that is trying to adopt a culture of freely collaborating across disciplines (lanes), a unique group recently formed on its own to solve a problem. The safety manager (a process guy), the compliance director (responsible for assuring the service meets all contractual and regulatory requirements), and the administrative assistant to the compliance director (a real project manager type), had an idea about how to fix a problem that had plagued the organization for 3 years.

After receiving the green light from the leadership, they went to work. Within a couple weeks this collaborative team took the organization from 35% validated performance to 100% validated performance. They were able to do it because they worked together, outside their lanes, and took an innovative approach to solving the problem.

So, in track and field and in traffic, definitely stay in your lane. In your organization, consider the value of allowing cross lane collaboration. You just might see amazing results.

Love ’em or Lose ’em

Believe it or not, the last eight posts have been around one theme. In the notes where I write and store the posts, I have them titled a little differently from the title with which I published them. I have an additional “tag” on the title. The tag is “Love ’em or Lose ’em.” For example, eight weeks ago the post was called “Are we there yet?” In my notes, it’s called “Love ’em or Lose ’em – Are We There Yet?” That tag comes from the title of a book I really like called, Love ’em or Lose ’em: Getting Good People to Stay by Sharon Jordan-Evans and Beverly Kaye.

The book is about what the authors learned from their research into what causes talented people to stay with an organization rather than decide to leave. Guess what? Simply put, It’s the relationship they have with their direct manager, their boss. That’s what I’ve been writing about, “How to be the best Boss your people will ever have.”

The Last Eight

Here are the last eight posts in order from oldest to most recent along with a single word describing what each post is about:

Are We There Yet? – is about Patience
I See You. – is about Kindness
Where Credit is Due. – is about Humility
Not Just Another Lady. – is about Respectfulness
More than Just Me. – is about Selflessness
Don’t Drink the Poison. – is about Forgiveness
TBH. – is about Honesty
Flipflops. – is about Commitment

I mentioned in several of the posts that one of the definitions, for example “Kindness – giving attention, appreciation, and encouragement,” came from James C. Hunter’s book, The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership. In his book, Hunter argues that each of these characteristics is essential to the character of true leadership.

Where Did That Come From?

Hunter got his list of character traits from another source. Patience and Kindness are straightforward. Humility combines three phrases from that source, “not envious, not boastful, not proud.” Respectfulness is his way of rephrasing “not rude.” Selflessness interprets “not self-seeking,” while Forgiveness covers “not easily angered” and “keeps no record of wrongs.” Honesty is his way of rephrasing, “does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” Finally Commitment takes in the largest number of phrases from the source, “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, never fails.”

Do you recognize the source? This is a quote from the New Testament, specifically 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. You may have heard it read at weddings. First Corinthinas 13 is commonly referred to in literature and among Christians as “The Love Chapter.”

That’s the tie-in with Love ’em or Lose ’em. Now, people sometimes get squeamish when you talk about love in the workplace. But, when you read the list above, do you see anything there to be squeamish about? No? Who wouldn’t want to work for someone like that? Check out this post and see how Southwest Airlines thinks about love.

Love is like the belt that holds all the other Engager Dynamics together. It’s caring about the other person beyond what they can do for you. You care about them as a person. That’s the strongest connector I know.

Flip Flops

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This time I’m not talking about the casual shoes for the beach. I’m talking about the term politicians use to accuse their opponents of being wishy washy on issues. “So-and-so is a flip-flopper,” they say. “Last year he held this position. Now he wants you to believe he’s on your side.” Have you ever heard that? Of course you have. As I write this post, the 2020 Presidential race is gearing up so we’re in for lots of this and more.

Can’t I Change My Mind?

Several years ago, the leader of an organization I was working with decided to change a policy that impacted how work was done for the entire organization. Not everyone was happy about it but that’s to be expected. People don’t generally embrace change with enthusiasm at first. After a few weeks of preparation for the the implementation, the leader changed his mind. He sent out a communication explaining that he had received additional information that caused him to re-think his decision. That new information led him to believe the change would not bring about what he had hoped to accomplish with the new policy, so he changed his mind.

The people in that organization were happy they didn’t have to change the way they did things. Beyond that, though, their respect for the leader grew. In that situation they didn’t see him as a “flip flopper,” they saw him as a transparent, thoughtful leader who was humble enough to acknowledge he was wrong in light of new information. The trick is not doing this very often. You don’t want to get mired in analysis paralysis. A leader most often needs to make a decision with no better than an 80% solution. That’s usually enough, though, because things change once you start down the path and you have to course correct along the way to reach the goal. But, make sure your 80% is solid information.

Commitment

What’s at stake here is confidence. People want leaders who are committed to something and stick with it. Commitment inspires employee confidence in the leader, the organization, the future. The difference between the leader who changed his mind and a flip-flopper is the perception of motive. The flip-flopping politician, for example, seems to be changing their position based on whatever direction the wind of public opinion is blowing. The people perceive it as self-serving and manipulative. The leader who changed his mind, on the other hand, is perceived as having the best interests of the organization and it’s people at heart. It’s easy to see how one inspires confidence while the other does the opposite.

In a piece of ancient poetry, the biblical psalmists asks God essentially “Who is righteous?” The answer includes the following statement, “… [the one] who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change his mind.” (Psalm 15) James C. Hunter, in his book on leadership, defines “commitment” as “sticking to your choices.” Organizations thrive when leaders make informed choices and stick to them.

TBH

To Be Honest (TBH), …, I’m not gonna lie, …, To tell you the truth, …, Honestly, …, It’s interesting how many phrases we use in every-day conversation to emphasize the truthfulness of what we’re saying. Does it sometimes make you wonder whether everything else the person says, without using one of those phrases, is true? If I say, “I’m not gonna lie,” does it mean I’ve lied before? How many times? It might just be me, but it seems like this speech pattern is becoming more popular. What does that mean about the status of truthfulness in our society?

Bobble Heads

Several years ago, I was asked by one of the division presidents to attend a president’s meeting with the CEO in his stead. All attendees were senior leaders of the different divisions of the company. It was fascinating to watch. Whenever the CEO said something, every head in the room bobbed up and down in agreement . . . except one. This guy not only didn’t “bobble head” he often shook his head and at times said, “No, that’s not a good idea.”

The first time he said that I thought everyone else in the room would get whiplash, their heads whipped around so fast to see who had dared to disagree. The tension in the room was thick. The CEO seemed a bit taken aback at first, probably because he wasn’t used to that. But, then he amazed everyone when he said, “Why do you say that?” The conversation after that was lively and productive.

In the weeks and months following that meeting, I noticed that the CEO, who was nobody’s fool, kept the naysayer close to him. Why? I believe he appreciated someone who would be honest about their view of things. In short, he trusted the honest one.

Trust

How important is trust in a relationship, any relationship? Maybe you would agree that it’s hard to imagine a relationship at all without some level of trust. Without trust, energy bleeds off an organization because it is wasted on second guessing and one upping. That wasted energy depletes productivity and synergy. On the other hand, when you have a high level of trust in an organization, there is a multiplication of productivity and synergy. Instead of the energy wasters you have freedom and ingenuity.

Honesty builds trust. Dishonesty destroys it. Just like with anything, building takes much longer than destroying. Have you every watched a video showing the demolition of a huge building in one blast? That’s what dishonesty does to trust. Three, two, one, it’s gone!

Honesty and Integrity

You will often hear people mention honesty and Integrity together, especially when talking about their personal or even organizational values. “I (we) value honesty and integrity.” I believe that’s telling, especially when you consider the second definition of “Integrity.” Integrity means

  1. The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
  2. The state of being whole and undivided.

A sentence using the second definition might be, “The earthquake compromised the structural integrity of the building.” Said another way, we can make the point more directly, “The dishonesty compromised the structural integrity of the team.”

The word “Honest” means: “free of deceit and untruthfulness; sincere.” People who are honest are genuine about what they think and how they feel. There is no pretense. There are no hidden agendas or ulterior motives. They say what they mean, and they mean what they say. We may not like what they say but we know it’s the truth. That’s what builds trust. And, TBH, we need a lot more of that.

Don’t Drink The Poison

I’ve been around for a few years and, like most people, I’ve had my share of disappointments. I’m talking about the kind of disappointments that come from someone else making a decision or doing something that negatively impacted me. I’m sure you’ve experienced the same thing. Whether the harm is personal or professional, the emotional response is usually the same. You go through a grief process. That’s normal. What is, unfortunately, too common, though, is that people often get stuck in resentment after being wronged.

Resentment

Resentment is “bitter indignation or anger at being treated unfairly.” Anger is one of the stages of grief. When we are treated unfairly or wronged, we lose something. It could be our job, an opportunity, our comfort, our sense of dignity or worth. We can lose many things at the hands of others. It’s the sense of loss that we respond to with grief.

Anger is like a match. When you strike it, it flares and burns for a few moments then it goes out. Resentment is what happens when you use that match to lite a charcoal fire. The flame settles into smoldering coals that burn hot for a long time. The problem with that smoldering fire is that it consumes the coals and leaves them in ashes.

Another metaphor for resentment is drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. When someone wrongs us we often want them to pay for what they’ve done. Somehow we believe our resentment will exact payment. The joke’s on us! They go on their merry way, oblivious to our suffering, while we whither inside.

The Antidote

The antidote to the poison of resentment is forgiveness. James C. Hunter, in his book on Leadership, defines forgiveness as “giving up resentment when wronged.” Sounds simple. It’s not. He doesn’t mean giving up in the sense of raising a white flag of surrender. He means letting the resentment go because you realize it’s only hurting you.

Don’t misunderstand. Forgiveness doesn’t mean excusing what the other person did. If they were wrong it doesn’t matter why they were wrong. It doesn’t mean saying what they did was OK. Wrong is wrong and if they harmed you they shouldn’t have done it. Forgiveness doesn’t mean just forgetting about what they did. No. There are lessons to be learned through the process. Besides, I don’t have one of those “Men in Black ‘flashy things’,” do you? (it’s a movie reference). And, the problem with sweeping it under the rug is that you usually trip over the bump in the rug at some point.

When someone does something wrong, justice demands a payment. They owe you. Forgiveness is canceling that debt. When you forgive, you realize you are going to live with the consequences of what that person did no matter what. Your choice is how you will live the them. Will you whither inside while resentment poisons your life? Or, will you thrive because you have released yourself from the expectation of receiving payment?

What do I know?

Several years ago, a gentleman got himself onto the board of an organization I was serving for what seemed like the sole purpose of torpedoing my work. He was successful. The board asked for my resignation. It was a confusing, dark time for my family. Many others in the organization were also confused and some felt hurt by our departure. Shortly after we left, he resigned from the board and left the organization, too. Strange.

Even now, when I think about it, I’m confused about what happened and I feel a twinge of pain wondering how things might have been different if I had continued in that role. Those are some of the consequences I live with but I’m thriving because I released myself from any expectation of payment even in the form of answers about why. I’ve also learned the truth of the song lyric, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

If I can do it, so can you. Whom do you need to forgive?

More than Just Me

Here’s a story from China.

A curious man once asked to visit heaven and hell. Expecting hell to be a terrible, frightening place, he was amazed to find people seated around a lovely banquet table. The table was piled high with every delicious thing one could possibly want. The man thought, Perhaps hell is not so bad after all. Looking closely, however, he noticed that everyone at the table was miserable. They were starving, because, although there was a mountain of food before them, they had been given three-foot-long chopsticks. There was no way to carry the food to their mouths with such long chopsticks, and so no one could eat a bite.

The man was then taken to heaven. To his surprise, he found the exact same situation as he had seen in hell. People were gathered around a banquet table piled with food. All the diners held a pair of three-foot-long chopsticks in their hands. But here in heaven, everyone was happily eating the delicious food, for the residents of heaven were using their extra-long chopsticks to feed one another.

Enough said!

Not Just Another Lady

Several years ago I had an epiphany at Walmart. It was a Monday evening after dark. It was rainy so I had just dropped my wife off at the Walmart front door. I was about to pull away to park the car, but I waited for a woman who had just stepped from the parking lot in front of my car on her way into the store. I recognized her.

The day before, at church, she and her husband had been the focus of a celebration. They had just retired from an organization where they had spent their career living among an indigenous people group whose language had never before been learned by outsiders and had no written form. They had learned the language, reduced it to writing and taught the people to read it. Then they had translated the entire New Testament of the Bible into that language so the people could read it. It was an incredible lifetime achievement which I deeply admired.

The epiphany came when it occurred to me that to everyone else in that store, she would be just another lady in the Walmart checkout line.

That moment changed me in some way. It showed me there is no such thing as “just another lady in the Walmart checkout line.” Everyone has a story. Every story is unique. Just because I don’t know a person’s story doesn’t mean they don’t have one or that it’s not important. It is to them. “Treating others as important people” is how James C. Hunter defines “Respectfulness.”

Word Nerd Alert

The online dictionary defines respect in these two ways:

  1. A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
  2. Due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others

It comes from two Latin words that mean “to look back.” I’m not sure if that means to look back at someone who is looking at you, which is a western form of respect. “Look me in the eye when you speak to me.” Many eastern cultures consider that disrespectful. Or, does “look back” mean a double take, like when you glance at something and it catches your eye so you look again? Something worth giving your attention. I can see either meaning as part of Respectfulness.

What’s The Point?

I was having lunch with two colleagues some time ago when my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number and normally I wouldn’t answer a call I didn’t recognize, especially when I’m in the middle of something. But, my colleagues happened to be saying something to each other at that moment so I answered the phone. The voice on the other end identified herself and asked if I had a moment to talk to the CEO. I took the call. That one was pretty easy.

I like almonds. There is a gas station near my workplace that sometimes has a sale on almonds, two bags for $6. I usually spring for the almonds when they’re on sale there. The question is, how do I treat the Indian gentleman who usually works behind the counter when I pay for my almonds? Do I treat him like I treat the CEO? His story is as important to him as mine is to me and the CEO’s is to him. Respectfulness dictates that I treat him as an important person. That gas station is usually busy so I respect his time by not trying to take too much of it. But, I do smile and clearly say, “Thank you” and I look for anything else I can do to be respectful.

A Matter of Policy and More

Most companies have written into their policies that employees will treat each other with “dignity and respect.” I’ve seen collective bargaining agreements that have similar language. Why is that? Someone has said that contrast is the mother of clarity. So, what is dis-respect? Disrespect is to treat someone as though they were not important, to disregard them or to mistreat them. Clearly no relationships, work or otherwise, would survive long in that kind of environment. Organizations thrive when people treat each other with respect.

People need to know that they matter. They want to know they matter on a personal level and that their work matters. Showing respectfulness sends the clear message that both are true. The simple phrase, “Thank you,” for example, signals to the other person that what they did, large or small,  mattered to you.  That means they mattered.

Try this. Next time you go through a drive through, make eye contact with the person who hands you your order, smile, and clearly say, “Thank you.” Watch their face. Write to me and tell me what happened. If you can do that with a likely stranger, how about your co-worker or family member?

Where Credit Is Due

“Hey Mom, Why is the sky blue?” “Dad, Where did I come from?” “Hey Mom, What are clouds made of?” If you’ve ever spent much time around children, you’ve heard all the questions. In fact, one study said that children ask 73 questions per day on average. I remember one drive into the city with our two youngest, Suzi (my wife), and grandma and grandpa in the car. Our youngest son, Jordan, hit the daily average in the first hour on that trip!

Young children are absorbing the world around them for the first time. They’re learning. They ask questions because they don’t know and they want to. It’s refreshing (when it hasn’t reached the point of being annoying), to hear the purity of their asking. Kids are real. There’s no pretense, no arrogance. They just ask because they want to learn. In his book on Leadership, James C. Hunter uses those terms to define “Humility.” He says humility is “being authentic, without pretense or arrogance.”

Word Nerd Alert

As I like to say, “The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.” So, let’s look at each of those three words used by Hunter. The online dictionary says:

Authentic

  • not false or imitation : real, actual
  • true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character

Pretense

  • a false reason or explanation that is used to hide the real purpose of something
  • an act or appearance that looks real but is false
  • a claim of having a particular quality, ability, condition, etc.
  • a claim made or implied; especially one not supported by fact
  • professed rather than real intention or purpose

Arrogance

  • an insulting way of thinking or behaving that comes from believing that you are better, smarter, or more important than other people
  • an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions

The online dictionary defines Humility as: “a modest or low view of one’s own importance, humbleness.”

One Chinese character for humility includes characters for walking, for connecting and for a small child.

C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

What’s the Point?

Harry S. Truman is credited with saying “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

If we combine what C.S. Lewis and Harry S. Truman said, we get to how I think about humility. Humility is not about putting yourself down or downplaying your strengths and abilities. It’s about using your strengths and abilities to lift others up. Especially as a leader, it’s making sure that you absorb blame when things go wrong and give credit when they go right.

When you hear a star basketball player interviewed, which kind of comments draw you to them? Are they the comments from the player who says, “Yeah, I really had to step up my game and carry my team to get the win?” Or are they from the player who says, “I’m really proud of how we were able to pull together and get this win. It’s an honor to be a part of this team?” Of course, it’s the second. We appreciate the humility.

No one succeeds alone. Those who think they do usually do end up alone. Arrogance and Pretense push people away. We are social creatures, designed to live and thrive in community. Every successful person has had teachers and mentors and support people along the way who are as much responsible for their success as they are.

Childlike

It’s interesting how we use the term “childish” to mean selfish and demanding, someone who might throw a temper tantrum if they don’t get their own way. On the other hand, we use the term “childlike” more positively. It refers to people who have not lost their sense of wonder, who ask questions, who are trusting and genuine, people who rely on others for help and don’t mind. In other words, humble.

The greatest leaders exhibit childlike humility. How can you use your strengths and abilities to lift up the people around you? Who around you now or in the past has been partially responsible for your success? Why not start exhibiting humility by thanking them?