31 flavors of humility

31 flavors of humility

humility and truth

 

 

Wouldn’t it be lovely if humility smelled like warm chocolate chip cookies so we could easily find ours when we lost it?

A small group of us were sharing comeuppance stories—times when we’d gotten too big for our britches and had taken a big fall from grace.

Betsy’s fall was the most dramatic. She’d been off-the-charts successful in her marketing job for a cosmetics company. Another company recruited her for their CMO job, complete with huge salary, signing bonus, and jaw-dropping perks. Betsy enjoyed her amazing perks for only five months. The CEO who’d recruited her fired her, saying Betsy was overly self-righteous, too self-important, and unnecessarily scornful of employees who weren’t executives.

“Go. Now. Be gone,” said the CEO as she made a sweeping away gesture with her hand. “I want you out of here immediately.”

Betsy said the CEO’s office had glass walls. So, while the CEO’s words were unheard by others, she saw everyone watching the dismissive gestures. And smiling.

It took Betsy five months to be able to say she was glad the humiliating experience had happened. Without it, she said, she would have remained too big for her britches, believing the myths about herself. She said she might have even become more unbearable.

“I got what I deserved. I let my success go to my head,” she said.

As do too many others.

Getting what we deserve

The endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one’s specialness, of how much more open and gifted and brilliant and knowing and misunderstood and humble one is. ~Anne Lamott

Not letting success steal our self-awareness is at the heart of staying humble. We control whether that happens or not. Either we let success go to our head and become self-important jerks, or we don’t.

Success isn’t some kind of a sentient being that inhabits our bodies, takes control of our mind, and miraculously makes us someone new.

Becoming successful or powerful or rich only shows what we really were all the time.

Hubris is an accessory we acquire.

If we were kind before being successful, we stay kind. If we were thoughtful, we stay thoughtful. If we were open-minded, we stay open-minded.

Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real. ~Thomas Merton

How could Betsy and the rest of us have stayed grounded enough so we didn’t have a comeuppance story to tell? A smorgasbord of choices and options exists. To make sure we don’t get too big for our britches, all we have to do is be self-aware.

If you’re looking for suggestions for how to avoid having a comeuppance story, here’s 31 ideas to get you started. Take a look and think about what could work for you.

31 things to do

  1. Practice gratitude
  2. Admit to being wrong, don’t double down
  3. Accept challenges with grace
  4. Adopt a beginner’s mindset
  5. Focus on the effort, not the outcome
  6. Ask for feedback and really listen to it
  7. Confront your prejudices
  8. Choose purpose over passion
  9. Be curious and ask questions
  10. Kill your pride
  11. Appreciate others
  12. Accept good enough
  13. Understand your weaknesses and faults
  14. Be gentle with the weaknesses and faults of others
  15. Keep your abilities in perspective
  16. Don’t fear failure
  17. Accept others as they are
  18. Don’t measure yourself by material possessions
  19. Practice self-compassion
  20. Live your values and do so with grace
  21. Let others live their values with grace, too
  22. See happiness as a by-product of purpose
  23. Give credit where it’s due
  24. Connect deeper than generalities
  25. Don’t evaluate others by their position or status
  26. Accept criticism as a gift
  27. Laugh at yourself
  28. Forgive
  29. Be mindful of the expectations you set for yourself and others
  30. Listen more, talk less
  31. Serve someone

Humility is a quiet gift we give ourselves and others.

Quiet anything easily gets lost or overlooked in today’s hurly-burly pace of life. But, as with most good and worthwhile things in life, we have to want quiet humility. Have to work at having it. Have to never lose sight of its importance.

Owning the responsibility to maintain our humility makes all the difference.

Image credit before quote added: Pixabay

 

 

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What to do when discord is everywhere

What to do when discord is everywhere

discord with trolls

 

 

There’s that old saying that two things in life are inevitable—death and taxes.

I think several other items can be added to that list, with one of them being conflict. Conflict is that uncomfortable, sometimes nasty stuff that happens when we feel threatened at the intersection of imbalances in power, money, or values:

  • Power conflict is prompted by disparities in control and influence.
  • Economic conflict results when there’s jockeying for access to and ownership of limited or scarce resources.
  • Value conflict bubbles up when there are varying preferences, principles, and practices between people’s ways of life and their ideologies.

Differences, another item that can be add to the list of inevitables in life, rest at the heart of all conflict.

People’s reaction to differences isn’t dissimilar from their reaction to conflict. Some try to ignore it, others try to vanquish it.

Others outsource taking care of it. “Come on, sweetie,” implored my mom. “You and your sister have to get along. You’re the oldest, so smooth it out.”

We can love what we are, without hating what- and who we are not. We can thrive in our own tradition, even as we learn from others, and come to respect their teachings. ~ Kofi Annan, diplomat

When some people encounter the discord that’s prompted by differences, they, also like my mom, want the antagonism to go away.

That’s really not an option.

sometimes the differences in power, money, or values are just too broad or deep to be closed. In those cases, the best we can hope for is to manage the conflict, manage the middle ground, and lessen the potential for destruction.

 

6 methods for managing discord

 

Experts tell us six courses of action exist for managing conflict:

  • Avoidance
  • Annihilation
  • Severing the connection
  • Stalemate
  • Compromise
  • Synthesis

Avoidance might work in the short-term, but doing so is like playing whack-a-mole. We can’t hide forever from conflict.

Annihilation is effective in ending the discord. However, wiping someone or something out isn’t a viable method for addressing conflict except in cases of war or defensible homicide. (And some rightfully pushback on its need in those circumstances).

Severing the connection isn’t much better. While severing may be less violent than annihilation, it’s avoidance that can result in cool neglect at best or oppression at its worst.

Stalemate results when the parties to a conflict give up. In a stalemate, the conflict may appear to have been resolved, but usually it’s been hidden, suppressed, or reduced to a “cold war” of ridicule and criticism. Psychologists describe stalemate as an intermediate stage of conflict that results from “failure of contentious tactics, exhaustion of resources, loss of social support, and unacceptable costs.”

Compromise is reached through mutual agreement or negotiation. While the underlying differences may remain, the parties agree to split the differences. Everyone gives up a little. It’s like the lessons we learned in childhood about sharing our toys and playing nice in the sandbox.

Some people say that when you compromise, you’re selling out. Things are either my way or the highway.

Other people see the personal and societal benefit in give-and-take as they believe there’s no one answer for all beliefs, morals, and values.

In synthesis, the sixth method for managing discord, people agree to maintain their differences while transcending them in pursuit of a greater purpose. If that sounds a little contradictory or confusing, think about inhaling and exhaling. Life isn’t possible without doing both despite that they appear to be opposites. The same two sides of one coin principle applies to many of life’s joys and challenges. Love isn’t possible without thinking and feeling. Leadership isn’t effective without results and relationships.

Differences simply act as a yarn of curiosity unraveling until we get to the other side. ~Ciore Taylor, author

Achieving synthesis requires people to abandon the polarization that results from I’m right/you’re wrong positioning. Synthesis depends on people’s ability to see both sides of the coin. It requires that they focus more on “we” than “me.” It means people decide to be both curious and accepting of the differences that contribute to a greater good.

Synthesis demands that people shift their paradigm about conflict, discord, and differences. That shift involves moving away from seeing conflict as something negative to be stamped out to embracing differences with trust and acceptance.

Creating the bridge from one side of the coin to the other is something everyone can do—provided we put our heads and hearts into it. What do you think?

Image credit before quote added: Pixabay

 

 

 

 

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There’s more to business than making money

There’s more to business than making money

money and meaning

Louie was doing his job well, He was actively selling Marie on all the reasons why she needed to list his firm’s talent assessment on her company’s website. His boss would have been proud if he could have heard him.

He mentioned making money three times and improving metrics four times in response to Marie’s questions.

“Louie, thank you for reaching out,” said Marie. “I appreciate you taking the time to go things with me and answer my questions. From where I stand, there isn’t an alignment between our companies’ interests, so a partnership isn’t going to work.”

“If I may ask, what interests aren’t aligned?”

“Metrics and money.”

“Wait a minute, Marie. Aren’t you interested in metrics and making money?”

“I am, just in a different way than you are.”

“What’s different?”

“Money and metrics tell me our business is doing well, but they aren’t the reasons we’re in business.”

Back in the 1950’s, the average lifespan of a business was 61 years; today, it’s around 18. Marie wants to beat both of those metrics. Her moonshot goal is achieving what the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hotel in Japan has done. The hotel opened in 705 AD and is still operating. Impressive.

Professor Makoto Kanda from Meiji Gakuin University studied the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hotel and other long-term operating businesses to understand their longevity. His findings? These long-term organizations focus on a central belief, a purpose, that isn’t solely tied to making a profit.

That’s different! An orientation to something more than money and metrics is hard to find in most Wall Street analyses and reporting.

Numbers falls short when measuring success

 

Quantitative metrics are valuable for tracking and assessing the effectiveness of a specific business process. However, making quantitative metrics the only measure of success creates a number of other issues such as:

  • People learn to game a system’s numbers and play to specific metrics.
  • While many experts promote metrics and AI as the antidote to bias, that’s not really the case. Bias is built into data and algorithms, and that bias can skew greater over time as the algorithms learn.
  • Initiative, innovation, and risk-taking lose out because they tend to harm metrics.
  • The long-term is sacrificed for the short-term.
  • Certain stakeholders are marginalized because of their minimal role in achieving the “right” numbers.
  • People fall into binary, either/or thinking patterns that tend to produce an artificial value hierarchy between business practices. For example, it’s not uncommon for companies to believe that improving the bottom line is more important than employee engagement or development.

Quantitative measurements do help people manage more efficiently. However, using a mix of quantitative and qualitative metrics makes managers both more efficient and effective.

A study by James Zenger found that 14 percent of employees viewed a manager who focused only on results as being a good manager. Twelve percent thought a manager who focused on relationships was good.

What about managers who delivered both results and relationships?

72 percent of employees saw them as a good manager. The really sad study finding? Less than one percent of managers focus on both results and relationships.

85 percent of managers prefer either results or relationships. Emphasizing one preference over another means there’s a counter balancing factor that isn’t being used. Picture the playground teeter-totter with one side up and the other down. A singular focus on metrics (teeter up) results in workplaces where employees aren’t fully engaged (teeter down).

The reverse is true, too. Too much emphasis on relationships and too little on results puts sustained business performance in jeopardy.

Going for both money and meaning

 

Marie’s business, the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hotel, and the one percent in Zenger’s study focus on actions that aren’t solely tied to making a profit.

These individuals and organizations have mastered “teeter-totter” leadership in that they balance both quantitative and qualitative aspects of managing and leading. They:

  • Get things done and are kind
  • Have high standards and give positive feedback
  • Have a plan and interact with people
  • Speak directly and are encouraging
  • Are decisive and consider impacts on others
  • Are analytical and have good interpersonal skills
  • Provide direction and listen to feedback
  • Are candid and show empathy
  • Think about today and tomorrow
  • Are self-aware and trust others
  • Compete externally and collaborate internally
  • Measure KPIs as well as smiles and laughter
  • Deliver the numbers and make people feel valued

Think about places where you’ve worked. Did you thrive in an environment where you were only as good as your last set of numbers? Or where you felt like you were valued and made a difference and were held accountable for solid work performance?

Now think about your leadership legacy. Do you want people to think of you as the boss who only cared about money and metrics, or as the boss they willingly followed because he/she focused on a central belief that wasn’t solely tied to making a profit?

Image credit before quote added: Pixabay

 

 

 

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Choosing not to be a sellout

Choosing not to be a sellout

 

 

 

“Let me take a look at your Twitter profile,” offered my table companion. We were attending a Chamber-sponsored event on how to make the most of social media. “That’s my area of expertise, and I’m happy to offer up a style suggestion or two. Maybe you’ll decide to become a client.”

Curious, I took him up on his offer.

A few days later, I received an email from him that read in part:

The biggest problem with your Twitter account is that you follow too many people. Your following count makes you look less authoritative and diminishes the value of your message. Be selective and exclusive in who you follow. Think of it as a hierarchy of prestige. I suggest you curate who you’re following and drop those who aren’t influencers or a recognized name. You want to look superior, distinguished, and special, not ordinary.

His advice disturbed me. For lots of reasons.

My dad taught me to be confident yet humble. One of his favorite put-downs for someone acting “high and mighty” was to say, “he forgets we all put our pants on the same way.”

There’s no “hierarchy of prestige” in that mindset. Just common sense and goodness.

Thinking you’re better than others

“The individuals in our sample consistently judged themselves to be superior to the average person.” ~Ben Tappin, The Illusion of Moral Superiority

In one study, two-thirds of the participants agreed with the statement, deep down, you enjoy feeling superior to others. Lots of other studies contain similar findings. There’s even a name for the mental state of thinking you’re superior to others—the self-enhancement effect.

Research shows the self-enhancement effect is most pronounced with moral characteristics. What does that mean? It means we not only see our abilities as above average, but we also see ourselves as more moral, just, trustworthy, loyal, etc., than our peers. That’s too big for your britches territory.

Self-enhancement thinking can lead to self-righteousness. That’s problematic.

Self-righteousness seeps into multiple aspects of our lives—it’s subtle, incremental, addictive, indiscriminate, and destructive. Thoughts about rightness and superiority contribute to polarization, social injustice, intolerance, political discord, and even violence.

My interpretation of the consultant’s recommendation? He wanted me to position myself as being better than other people. Special. Elite. Exclusive.

Creating such a narrative about myself smacked of arrogance and narrow-mindedness, not messages I wanted to convey or even let myself believe. Other social media experts advocate the same approach to those you follow back. For me, curating those I follow back to create an image of exclusivity and superiority felt inauthentic and dishonest.

“What is intellectual honesty? It means always seeking the truth regardless of whether or not it agrees with your own personal beliefs.” ~Perry Tam, CEO Storm8

A very thin line exists between confidence and arrogance. Not crossing that line requires vigilance, commitment, and self-awareness. Curiosity, a desire for humility, a sense of humor, and being kind to ourselves and others are involved, too.

Authenticity over style

 

Maintaining intellectual honesty and avoiding the trap of self-righteousness requires a few do’s and a couple of don’ts if we’re going to lead ourselves and others with grace and goodness.

DO:

  • Respect others as equals.
  • Be willing to listen to opposing points of view.
  • Check our ego at the door.
  • Be confident without being arrogant.

DON’T

  • Judge or label people.
  • Accept our presumed superiority.
  • Attack people who hold different beliefs.
  • Be something we’re not.

I thanked the consultant for taking the time to look over my Twitter account and for sharing his thoughts. He asked if I wanted to become a client so I could capitalize on more of his experience and increase my influencer status.

“No, thank you,” I replied.

“I think you’re making a mistake, so may I ask why you’re not interested?”

“Of course. I walk to a different drummer. I want to be seen as knowledgeable, not superior. Accessible, not exclusive. Kind, not elite. If that means people judge me as not being distinguished, then so be it. They wouldn’t be my target audience, anyway. I’ll take substance over style any day.”

“Have it your way,” he said as he shrugged his shoulders and walked away. Convinced, I’m guessing, of my lack of superiority. I’m good with that.

Image credit before quote added: Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

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Let’s fix the problem with power

Let’s fix the problem with power

 

Power has a reputation problem.

When I use the word power, I’m referring to changing “what is” to “what can be.”

When I ask people to talk about power, they wrinkle their nose in disgust or say, “I’d rather not.” When I ask them why not, they offer up reasons why power is bad, saying things like:

  • Power makes people selfish and insensitive.
  • Power makes you over-confident, narcissistic, and corrupt.
  • Having people makes you intimidating.

People aren’t wrong when they say these things about power. Who hasn’t worked for bosses who were all these bad things—and more? If personal experience isn’t enough, research affirms that some people who have power are selfish, corrupt, and cruel.

As a result of these unsavory encounters, power becomes the bad guy to be avoided, like the creepy stranger who lures kids into cars with candy.

The problem with this avoidance solution?

It leaves the bad guys in charge.

In reality, power, in and of itself, isn’t inherently good or evil. Power takes on either the goodness or badness of the person using it.

Power undirected by high purpose spells calamity; and high purpose by itself is utterly useless if the power to put it into effect is lacking. ~Theodore Roosevelt

Because so many people abuse power, we confuse power with the bad person misusing it and say we don’t want power.

When thoughts like this get into our heads, they can be hard to get rid of. However, for the greater good, now’s the time to let go of the notion that power is a bad thing and reclaim it as something good.

The problem? The bad person misusing their power

 

The problem with seeing power as an evil force to be avoided? This view removes the person who has the power from the equation. They become an innocent bystander to a situation of their own making. That’s not right.

Linguist Julia Penelope says the nouns we use and where we place them in a sentence changes how we, and others, interpret a topic. She says we sometimes go so far as even to forget that a person is responsible for what happened to us.

Julia uses the following series of sentences to illustrate this omission:  John beat Mary. Mary was beaten by John. Mary was beaten. Mary was battered. Mary is a battered woman.

By the time we get to the third sentence, John has disappeared, and the topic has shifted from John beating Mary to Mary’s identity as a battered woman. When we make these thinking shifts, we delete whomever or whatever initiated the event.

We’re doing the same thing when we say power is bad. Power itself isn’t bad, it’s the greedy or egotistical person who’s changing “what is” to “what can be” to suit their own purposes who is.

What power does is that it liberates the true self to emerge. ~Joe Magee, a power researcher and professor of management at New York University

Professor of psychology and sociology G. William Domhoff notes that power is one of a few universal dimensions that humans encounter at the interpersonal, group, and societal levels.

Why is power’s universality important to recognize? Because doing good involves having and using power—but for the greater good, not personal gain.

It doesn’t matter if the doing good happens at work, at home, in the community, or in pursuit of social justice or equality. Changing “what is” to “what can be” requires power. If you’re like me and want society and workplaces to be more equitable, inclusive, and kind, we need power to effect those changes.

Eligibility checklist for power?

 

I confess. My tolerance for selfish, money-oriented, glory-grabbing people in positions of power has been exhausted. Because of that, I’ve been thinking about what can be done to ensure that the people who have power are the ones who can properly handle it.

Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power. -Seneca

Here’s what is on my list so far:

1) Change what’s measured and rewarded. Require that leaders at all levels be held accountable for people, principles, and profits. Measuring success only by dollars and cents perpetuates bad behaviors while encouraging more of them.

2) Call’em out. Rather than lauding their actions, criticize CEOs and Wall Street analysts who focus on only the bottom line. Who says capitalism must be heartless?

3) Take a leadership oath of office. Doctors do it. So do new citizens, politicians, soldiers enlisting for the U.S. Army, nurses, lawyers, and pharmacists. Part of the oath would be a promise to hold people, principles, and profits equally important.

What would you put on the power-eligibility list?

Image credit before quote: Pixabay

 

 

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