Humility matters, perhaps more so today than ever. It’s a character trait that, when exhibited regularly and authentically, can help us be better listeners, inspire others, build relationships, and give us insight into different ways of thinking and being…something that in my opinion, we are in desperate need of. The only way we can solve the massive issues we face as a society is to be more humble in how we lead, follow, think, speak, and act.
In contrast, arrogance, humility’s antithesis, happens when we let our egos get in our way. Arrogance is the gateway to intolerance, exclusion, and judgmental mindsets. It is the killer of curiosity because it leads to thinking, “I know what’s right. I know what’s wrong. I know what’s best. I don’t care what you think.” It allows us to tell ourselves that we can say and do whatever we want with little regard to others. Screw political correctness, general cordialness, or respectful debate. In fact let’s just go to war (with each other or with other nations) and impose our (arrogant) will. This is incredibly dangerous and obviously unproductive given the state of the world right now.
So what exactly is humility? Merriam Webster dictionary defines it as, “the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people.” C.S. Lewis says it’s, “not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.” The Urban Dictionary states that it is, “remaining teachable, knowing that you do not have all the answers.” I think the three of these together give a fairly decent picture of what we all should strive to be but in effort to make it clearer, here are ten things you can do to be more humble.
In closing, I’ll leave you with another quote, this time from Gordon B. Hinckley who so eloquently said, “Being humble means recognizing that we are not on Earth to see how important we can become, but to see how much difference we can make in the lives of others.” What would our lives, our communities, and the world be like if we all believed in and lived by this mantra; not just for those we know and love, but for all of humanity?
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Accountability is so much more than just admitting when you’ve made a mistake. Unfortunately, this is the narrow definition many people use and they miss the bigger picture of what true accountability is.
True accountability is fully owning everything that happens in your life. It means you understand that you are responsible for your attitude, actions, reactions, teamwork, communication, and relationships. It also means you hold others accountable for the commitments and effort they give forth.
To me, there is almost nothing more important than accountability. It leads to honesty, commitment, compassion, integrity, and it builds deeper, more fulfilling relationships. To help illustrate true accountability, I wanted to share some examples in effort to help others gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for how important this character trait is.
You don’t understand a decision your boss made. It’s affecting your job and you are losing sleep over it. What do you do?
How to be accountable in this situation: Seek to understand without blaming or making assumptions. Ask your boss about the decision; what was the background that triggered it and how was it made? Is there a bigger picture that you aren’t seeing? Then share how the decision is affecting you and offer solutions on how your stress might be eased.
How to NOT be accountable in this situation: Talk behind your boss’s back but give him lip service to his face. You tell yourself that you can’t change anything so you’ll just have to shut up and deal with it. Assume that it’s his job to figure out how much the outcome is affecting the team; it was his decision after all; now he has to live with the consequences.
A teammate shares with you that you come across as aggressive in meetings and people are afraid to speak up in fear of being snapped at. What do you do?
How to be accountable in this situation: Say thank you for the feedback and ask more questions about how you are making people feel. Apologize to your teammates. Ask them for help in holding you accountable when you have an aggressive tone in meetings. Look within to understand why you are being aggressive; perhaps these meetings are ineffective and long and it’s causing frustration? Share your concerns, along with solutions, with your boss so she can help you come up with a plan to resolve issues that are negatively affecting your job. Ask for help if you don’t have the tools or skills you need to communicate effectively.
How to NOT be accountable in this situation: Get defensive, make excuses, blame someone or something else, or otherwise blow off the feedback. Let your feelings get hurt so you shut down, refusing to talk or engage in meetings.
You’ve gone as far as you can go on a project and you can’t take the next step until someone from another department does his part, which doesn’t seem to be happening. What do you do?
How to be accountable in this situation: Not wanting to make assumptions, you walk to his desk (or pick up the phone if you aren’t in the same location; you know that sending an email could be misinterpreted) and ask him how’s he’s doing. Perhaps his boss gave him a different set of priorities or he didn’t know you were waiting on him? Ask him if there is anything you can do to help and when he expects to be done. You let him know that you appreciate his workload and it’s not your intention to pile on; you understand that you are both on the same team and succeed or fail together. At the end of the talk, you mutually agree on a time frame. By doing this you hold both yourself and your teammate accountable.
How to NOT be accountable in this situation: Take the mindset of “at least it’s not on my desk anymore so my boss can’t blame me.” You complain to other co-workers about him behind his back but don’t try to understand what’s holding him up nor do you give him feedback; it’s not your problem nor your responsibility to make sure your teammates are doing their jobs.
There is a lot of miscommunication on your team. You are frustrated because you are working on the same thing as two other people, unbeknownst to all of you. What do you do?
How to be accountable in this situation: You ask these two people to sit down with you and assess what happened. How did you all three end up working on the same thing? Was a breakdown in communication or process? What needs to be done to fix this? Ask for input from others. Develop a process to insure this won’t happen again. Present the plan to your manager as a solution to your problem. Commit to holding each other accountable to following the new process.
How to NOT be accountable in this situation: Grumble in frustration and tell the other two that you will just handle it yourself, but feel resentful while doing it. You decide not speak up about the problem though…it’s your manager’s job to fix the poor communication issues plaguing your department.
You are having a rough morning and it seems like everything that could go wrong does. You feel yourself slipping into annoyance and want to get snippy with your co-workers. What do you do?
How to be accountable in this situation: You go for a walk around the building to get some fresh air. You know that your mood sets the tone for everyone around you and you want to bring cheer, not gloom. While you walk, you think of all the things you are grateful for, understanding that a shift in mindset can help you shake the moodiness. You take a few deep breaths and walk back to your desk to write down 3 things that would help you get your day back on track. Then you stop by a co-workers desk and say, “I’m having a bit of a bad day. I am working hard to keep myself from spiraling into a bad mood but may need a pick me up. If I seem grumpy, can you please tell me a joke to help me smile?”
How to NOT be accountable in this situation: You let yourself fall into the bad mood and justify it by saying, “Everyone is allowed to have a bad day. My co-workers are just going to have to deal with it. The reason I am in a bad mood anyway is because people are making mistakes and not communicating well. It’s causing everything to go wrong.” You avoid talking to your teammates, vowing to keep your head down and focus on getting your job done. When someone comes and asks you a question, you give a short response and tell him that you are too busy to help.
In each of these examples, you had a choice: be accountable or not.
You can see when you choose to be accountable, you empower yourself to be part of a solution, building trust, resolving issues, and gaining a deeper understanding of yourself and those you work with. Being accountable feels better in the long run, even if it’s a painful process, because it builds self-esteem. There is nothing more powerful than solving your own problems and fixing your mistakes. Owning your attitude and choosing to be positive helps you see challenges as opportunities.
Or…you can let yourself be a victim of circumstance, giving away your power to change your situation, help your teammates (including your boss), and solve your own problems. Being a victim gives you an excuse to have a bad attitude which leads to poor relationships and spills over into those outside of work.
You get choose every day: be empowered or be the victim. I hope you are inspired to choose empowerment. The alternative is this…
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How Having Regular Performance Conversations Creates Better Employees and Makes You a Better Manager
I was recently asked what I think is the most important thing a manager can do to develop his or her people. The answer is simple: a good manager who is committed to developing his or her employees is also committed to always providing meaningful performance feedback. And by always, I don’t mean once a year during an annual performance evaluation.
Every employee in your organization deserves to know where he or she stands at all times. That’s why the dreaded annual evaluation process doesn’t work. Having a once-a-year discussion with an employee about her goals and performance isn’t motivating nor does it change behavior.
So what do I do, you say? I recommend getting rid of your annual performance review and commit to having regular performance conversations. At least once per quarter (although I try to do it twice per quarter due to its effectiveness), you should meet with each of your employees to discuss what’s going well and what isn’t, and create an action plan for career development and improvement. This is also a good opportunity to ensure your employees are working on the RIGHT things…work that ties to strategy execution and that is of high value to the company.
To prepare for these performance discussions, ask each employee to write out his or her answers these 4 questions…
Once they have provided you with their responses, add your comments. Be sure to highlight examples of things you’ve seen going well and give candid feedback on what can be improved, even if it seems insignificant. Even the smallest of course corrections can yield big results. Analyze their responses to the third question about what they are working on right now. Notice I didn’t ask “what are your top two priorities?” Priorities don’t always tie to what an employee is actually doing and this is a problem. You need to make sure that they are spending their time on the RIGHT tasks, ensuring that their goals are aligned with the company strategy. This is far more effective than setting goals once per year. Lastly, the fourth question should never ever be overlooked. Even if he says that there is nothing you can do to help him improve, dig a bit more. Ask if there are things you do that get in the way or make his job harder. Don’t be satisfied with a non-answer. Getting feedback from your employees is how you improve your performance.
But this takes so much time, you say? Yes, it does but the results you get from giving regular feedback far outweigh the time it takes to sit down for 45 minutes to talk about performance. I can promise you this...your employees need and want feedback; they crave it, both good and bad. It helps them get better at their jobs, which is a good thing for you as a manager. Don’t believe me? Check out this HBR article. Plus, what could be more important than helping your employees improve? People are your greatest asset and rock star employees are what make a company successful. Your number one goal should be to develop as many of them as you can.
But I don’t have the ability to influence my company’s annual performance review process, you say? So what? Follow the above process anyway. It will make your job easier at the end of the year when you have to prepare the annual evaluation; you’ll have four (or eight) documented performance conversations to refer to. You will also have motivated and productive employees because they are getting regular, meaningful feedback throughout the year. And if you have an employee who has continuous performance issues with little corrective action, it’ll be easier to manage him into another role or out of the company because you’ll have plenty of documented conversations to back up your decision. HR will love you for this!
Lastly, don’t wait for your quarterly (or bi-quarterly) meetings to give feedback; receiving it real-time allows employees to more clearly see how their behavior or effort is affecting their performance, especially when it’s tied to a specific instance. For example, if an employee is checking her phone during a meeting and generally not paying attention, pull her aside afterwards and ask her about her inattentiveness. It’s important to understand why she’s exhibiting the behavior before jumping into the feedback. This will give insight as to what’s going on without making her defensive. Then share with her that both you and the team don’t feel that she is engaged when she’s not actively participating, and this hurts her ability to be an effective teammate and it causes her to be perceived as unhelpful. Help her come up with a plan to solve her issues around why she wasn’t participating so she can actively engage and be a better teammate. This is highly effective…it would have lost its punch if you would have waited until the next performance conversation to share it…in fact, you probably would have blown it off and not said anything. Doing it real-time allows her to make immediate changes and it gives you insight to an issue she was struggling with, allowing you to help her move past it. This is great management.
I hope this inspired you to improve your performance review process. If this blog post didn’t, perhaps this will…
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A Quick Blurb on what this blog is about.
Welcome to my blog! My name is Kerry Siggins and plain speaking, honest leadership is my mantra. My intention is to help those who lead (or want to lead) become better at saying and doing what needs to be said and done in a way that it can be heard and seen, one person at a time.