When It’s Hard To Be Humble

Earlier in the week I met with John Peters @Johnpeters1531. John is famous for being a prisoner in the Gulf War. Remember him? He was the guy whose battered and bruised face appeared in photos across the quality and popular press. It turns out he was kept in captivity for seven weeks, and became a symbol of a war that divided opinion across the UK.

Yet he doesn’t rush to tell the story (despite having met royalty, chatted to Princess Diana, followed Nelson Mandela on stage, and being a major celebrity). Instead he’s a humble human being, who talks about “being bombed etc” as if that was just part of his job. He’s gone way past the bravado I might have expected from a military hero. And I loved him for it. It demonstrated a warm and likeable style that’s important for anyone speaking at The Henley Partnership @Henley_HP.

And this told me something new about value. His humility impressed me, intrigued me and interested me. It made me look for his real value; what he offers in terms of life and work experience to the business professionals we bring into our events. It made me believe that he’ll make sense, and be valuable, to the people listening. In the Gulf it was about survival, which taught John lots about leadership. And he’s turned his experiences into a relaxed yet robust framework to help leaders thrive in an environment of uncertainty. That’s not just valuable. It’s critical to the success of anyone in a leadership role.

So back to that humility. When it comes to value, showing humility “shines and amplifies” but arrogance “dulls and deadens”. I’ve seen arrogance too much lately – from junior players in cricket to senior figures in business. It makes me focus too much on the person’s style, and not enough on their substance. And if I don’t like the style, maybe I’ll ignore the substance.

So here’s my advice. Be brilliant. Be confident. Be assured. But show that humility. Even when you’re so talented that it’s hard to be humble. Your value will be obvious to everyone, and that will really make you #standout.

P.S. Meritology’s The MERIT Method℠ includes a clear focus on how value is affected by the emotional reaction of the person receiving. This blog is just one example. Please get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Ask Yourself Those Questions

OK, so a slightly flippant post with a serious point. I run The Henley Partnership @Henley_HP for Henley Business School. During our masterclass events, I tweet the insights created, interesting observations and information offered. And I do this carefully, and thoughtfully.

It’s always good to get feedback, and useful to just step back – taking a moment to pause and reflect on your own personal and professional value. In anything you are doing. And in everything you are doing. That sounds a really “deep and meaningful” remark, and I don’t mean you should question the fundamentals of your being (why you are here on this earth, what you are here to do, that kind of thing). I mean something much more straightforward. You need to question the value of the work that you do, and the way that you do it.

So my moment to pause and reflect was on Tuesday, as I was happily tweeting away during one of our fabulous events. An alert popped up, saying that the MD of Scandinavian consulting business had followed me on Twitter. Nothing extraordinary there. I’m deliberately trying to increase my followers at senior director level. Imagine my surprise when the next alert said I’d been followed by someone whose twitter name includes the legendary cartoon character SpongeBob Squarepants. Ok, so “legendary” is perhaps an exaggeration, but I remember many evenings watching Spongebob with my young son. And there was a recent film made about him (can a sponge be a “him”?)

My point is simple. When you get feedback, make sure you listen. Never stop questioning and challenging your value. Was this telling me my tweets are too trivial? Not serious enough? A bit lightweight? Was that why I’d attracted SpongeBob? I spent a good half hour looking back at my tweets, checking that they were right for my customers and my audience. And I still can’t work out what attracted SpongeBob. Maybe the MD of the consulting firm could tell me! But I am happy that my tweets are adding value. Happy that, with a few refinements, they can be better. And happy that I took time out to ask myself those questions.  I’d recommend you do the same.

The True Meaning Of Success

My colleague Andrew Kakabadse @Kakabadse has published a new book. In his research, supported by the global search firm Heidrick & Struggles, he found that:

“the starting point for any successful organisation, or any individual, must be value. Always. Value is the currency of success. The types of value organisations seek to create, and how they approach doing so lies at the very core of any understanding of what success looks like and what is required to make it a reality”

He also talks about how different types of organisations seek to create different sorts of value – whether it is shareholder value, social value, stakeholder value, or financial value. But all organisations must create value to legitimise their existence and be regarded by themselves and others as successful. He (rightly) states that creating value therefore is the primary purpose of leadership, and the building block of every success story that adorns annual reports, magazine covers and more.

Andrew Kakabadse’s latest book – ‘The Success Formula’ is available to order now from Bloomsbury: http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-success-formula-9781472916846/.

Andrew Kakabadse book Front cover