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by | Apr 23, 2014 | Business, career, Leadership

Humility is not a virtue that’s championed in the American culture, or in modern business strategy.

We’re a bunch of rugged individuals, like the Marlboro man. We’re mavericks, pioneers, explorers, people who are strong, independent, and proud.

But as good as those characteristics may be in helping you get your business off the ground, they won’t keep you afloat once you start adding team members to your organization. That’s where humility comes in. If you don’t intentionally build humility built into your business strategy, your business is going to suffer a long, painful death, because the backbone of your business will be severed.

What is that backbone? RELATIONSHIPS – between team members, and with clients/customers.

Relationships cannot survive, at least not in a healthy way, without humility.

Here are 6 reasons humility should be included in your business strategy:

1 business strategy - kill the sacred cowHumility fosters an atmosphere where everyone on the team is invited, even expected, to contribute. Ideas are shared, creative juices get flowing, and projects actually gain momentum because there is no ego-at-the-top that is threatened by the talented individuals on the team. It also encourages folks to disagree, because disagreements are where sacred cows are challenged and the truly creative innovations are born.

2 Humility makes necessary confrontations less threatening. When everyone is encouraged to be open to the ideas and perspectives of others on the team, it’s not so tough to confront someone over a misstep, violation of shared convictions, or neglect of a responsibility. Because you’ve built humility into your company culture, you’ll expect the person on the other side of the difficult conversation to be receptive to what you have to say, and you’ll approach them with a desire to truly understand what happened and help them overcome the issue.

3 Humility makes it easier for the entire team to take necessary chances. When humility is pervasive in a company, nobody is going to get canned if they fail. Nobody is going to lose their cool if someone else fails. The entire team is motivated and eager to step into the unknown so that great discoveries can be made. That’s when things begin to roll ahead, when progress is truly made. That’s when companies and individuals have tremendous impact.

4 Humility makes it easier for team members to trust each other. Everybody is FOR everybody else in a humble company culture because it’s a known fact that nobody wins or gets ahead unless everybody wins or gets ahead. Teamwork takes on its TRUE meaning in a context like that.

5 Humility fosters an atmosphere of clear communication. When egos are not on the line, there’s no risk in sharing information, data, skills, resources, etc. No more competition between departments, no more fighting for budget allocations and favor with the CEO. Everyone is free to share, communicate, and make the entire company thrive.

6 Humility inside your business benefits those outside your business. Everything is better for customers and clients when humility is part of your business culture. Service to your customers is not a “bother”, it’s an honor. The changes and impact your team is having on the lives of the real people you serve, begins to matter. Enthusiasm will build. A positive atmosphere will emerge… and your customers will sense it, and like it. That creates customer loyalty and an ethos where word of mouth referrals can explode.

And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I know there are TONS more reasons humility is an excellent component to add to your business strategy.

So how do you do it? How do you insert humility into your business culture?

1 Model it. If you, the owner/boss/manager are not demonstrating humility in how YOU interact and respond… nobody else will. You have to lead the way, consistently.

2 Talk about it. Humility isn’t something you can insert covertly. Your employees and partners need to know that you’ve had a “change of heart.” They need to know that because something inside you is different, the company is going to be different. It’s called “confession” and it truly IS good for the soul.

3 Describe how you see it working. Give examples of what it would look like. Highlight the benefits. Make it clear that every employee’s performance and role will be evaluated by the additional criteria of how they are functioning as a humble contributor to the whole. Brainstorm it with the team. Your employees are talented people. They will become even more dynamic and essential when they begin to operate in a context of humility. Listen to their ideas. Build on them. Brainstorm together how you can work toward humility in your day to day operations.

4 Trust your team with important things. You have to let go of things (it’s part of the modeling point above). The people on your team will begin to shine, bringing benefit to you and the company if you let them. Learn to delegate. Learn to give up power. Trust key people with important tasks and roles, and watch them bloom… and watch them begin to do the same toward those under them.

rock stars5 Develop a “thank you” habit. Humble people are appreciative people They notice what others are doing to contribute to the whole and make sure they are valued. As the owner/boss, you can do that in some significant ways. That includes public appreciation, championing the “rock stars” on your team, and making sure to be liberal with “well done” remarks across the community.

6 Learn to be generous to the team. I’ve always believed that if a boss/manager treats his people like gold, they will repay him in gold. When you are generous with your team, they will work harder, smarter, and faster. They will feel positive about you and the company. They will commit themselves to the tasks and goals of the company in a new way… a humble way.

action steps

  1. Choose one thing from the second set of points above that you will commit to doing for the next 30 days.
  2. Put it on your calendar or to do list.
  3. Make it a priority every day.
  4. Do it.
  5. Keep notes on what results you see.

Share your idea for building humility into your business strategy, in the comments below!