Saturday, July 5, 2014

Humility: doorway to success

Mr. Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons (Tata group): mature, intelligent, progressive and humble leadership.

Dhirubhai Ambani was an approachable, highly successful, Gujrati businessman: humility was his asset.

The concept of humility is vital.  This attitude is the doorway to enduring success.  Humility means acceptance of situations (positive and negative) with poise, fearlessness and open mind.  Hence, humility helps in continuous learning, adaptation and more success moves.  It makes connectivity possible with the person, since he or she is approachable (due to a humble nature).

Life is a picture of contrasts: like the seasons' of nature, we have to face all sorts of weather patterns!  Cold, heat, monsoon, drizzle, snow... yet our adaptability through knowledge, strength and humility will help us get through the turbulence, and also ensure we experience salubrious weather - with equipoise.


Humility is an interesting concept, which is emphasised often in human behaviour virtues and for good inter-personnel relationships.  Humility is not being a doormat - yet it is not throwing one's weight around.  It is a sense of balance, where fearlessness is not misread as pride, yet the down-to-earth behaviour (as a matter of fact attitude) is not making you a taken-for-granted being.  Humility is a totally tough trait to practice, since it appears different in various contexts.

In some cultures, a person who feels humble is seen as weak, and in other sub-cultures, a humble person may be inferred as inconsequential, not-smart and non-assertive.  A humble person being aloof may be interpreted as a smart, over-confident and proud.  Hence, practice of humbleness is to be done in relation to the cues in one's environment.

So what is the practice of humbleness?

Humility is being approachable, confident (fearless) and cheerful.  Humility helps one manage criticism, hostility and negative strokes, with tact, inventiveness and humour.  Humility helps one keep the mind open for new: ideas, interests, knowledge, adaptations, conversations, learnings, behaviours, approaches, relationships, activities, improvements, progress, successes ... and in short, smiles!  Humility helps maintain poise in the face of adverse or most favourable circumstances!!  Actually, humility, also helps one know the limitations, and the person is consequently, realistic yet assertive, and the person knows when to say - NO: emphatically!  Humility, actuates a person to action, a humble person can approach any individual and do business with!  A humble person is also approachable - ideal trait for business!!

In the spiritual land, humility helps in progress: to realise the connection between the soul-force of an individual (jivatman) and the supreme Soul (paramatman).

So in short, for even-mindedness, approachability, learning, cheer and progress, humility is a major virtue.

In inter-personnel relationships, humility helps engage in mutually acceptable, likable and progressive transactions.  When a person is humble (yet not a doormat) it means the individual is committed to reasonable and mutually beneficial relationship.  That is why humility is a most sought after trait in leadership.

Humble persons are not weak, they are strong, open-minded, fearless, learning oriented, believe in mutualism (win-win), tactful, cheerful and have equipoise!  Humility is then a characteristic, which is infectious!

The nub of the matter is that one should knock off the imagery that being humble means acquiescence and weakness.  Humility is not about compromising and being weak.  A humble person is strong, able to negotiate, smile, be confident (fearless), problem-solving, learning oriented, poised, not agitated, progressive, positive, energetic, approachable and likable.

In organizations, humility as an organizational attribute is key to organizational success.  A humble organizational personality is approachable, confident and enjoys enduring success.  A humble organization is strong due to adaptability.  Humble organizations are business savvy.

Humility, hence, needs to be measured, tracked and actualized as an organizational value, this will contribute to organizational progress.

As a case study, a simple Likert scale questionnaire was administered in a corporate setting: it produced interesting results:

In the above picture we see the results of a simple questionnaire where 28 respondents were asked to respond to a simple statement: I AM USUALLY OPEN-MINDED.  12 people strongly agreed with this statement.  13 people only agreed, while 3 were neutral and none disagreed.  This meant that organizational sample members were mostly open-minded hence, learning oriented.

In the second statement: I AM USUALLY OPEN-MINDED ONLY ON SELECTIVE ISSUES OR SELECTIVE PEOPLE, responses were interesting.  Some sharp respondents highlighted the word ONLY and hence disagreed with the statement because they were open with people on all issues, indicating they were highly confident and humble.  Others strongly agreed, with this statement, meaning that although they were open-minded, they were selectively open-minded on the issue and people involved.  So this means, those who agree and strongly agree with this statement, are selectively humble.  So this implies: 12 people are very humble and 12 people are selectively humble and 4 are neutral. 

This interesting trait of selective humility or selective open-mindedness needs to be understood by managers!

22 people of 28 respondents strongly agreed or agreed that THEY SEEK FEEDBACK FROM PEERS, SENIORS AND JUNIORS EVEN IF IT IS CRITICISM.  3 people were neutral, around 3 employees did not believe in seeking feedback.

An important dimension of humility is SEEKING HELP TO LEARN.  All 28 respondents amazingly believed in seeking help to learn - if they did not know a skill or a relevant learning. A learning oriented organization is an open one and will certainly be more adaptable to the eddies and flows of business environment.  Hence, this valuable trait of SEEKING HELP TO LEARN in the corporate where this Likert scale was administered, is a good phenomenon (since 28 people ie., all respondents showed SEEKING HELP TO LEARN behaviour)!

Open-minded refers to the trait of listening to all views, while learning - definitely requires open-mindedness, but it appears here in this context - that people are ready to learn and are thus open minded especially when it is vital for their job.  

This co-relates well with the first two responses.  We found that most people were open-minded to all issues, and for selective open-mindedness, 12 were open-minded to all issues and 12 people were selectively open-minded, but overall, job oriented learning culture is evident in this setting where the Likert scale was used.

The practice of humility involves COMPLIMENTING OTHERS FOR THEIR ACHIEVEMENT AND SKILLS.  27 people in the surveyed corporate setting agreed they compliment others for their achievements and skills.  There is a strong encouraging culture, it appears in the corporate.

To encourage honest feedback while administering the Likert scale on humility related matters, respondents in this setting, were not required to provide their names on the questionnaire, this approach is well known to help people to come out honestly, when answering.

The challenge at the individual level in business practice or as an employee is to continuously apply what is learnt as theory and also improve one's learnings' constantly through experience.  I did the above Likert psychometric scale for attitudinal survey  for humility in daily work practice as a part of my mission to continuously learn and practice learnings!  My wish is that various concepts should not be only in the books!!  I thank respondents of a particular corporate setting for participating in the above survey.

Kindly scroll down and read all other blogposts (kindly recommend this blog to others) and click on OLDER POSTS to read my older blog write-ups.  Thanks for your valuable attention!

No comments: