March 7, 2014

How to Be Humble in Your Job

By: Roger Custer

Employers often cite humility as an important virtue in potential hires.  What does this mean practically, and how can employees be humble?  Humility is part of your attitude in how you think about and talk about your work.  It’s the attitude that you can always do better, you acknowledge and learn from your mistakes, and you are often the one to blame instead of constantly blaming others.

Author Frank Sonnenberg writes an excellent piece on how to be humble.  His main point is that success is temporary and we should never feel like we have “arrived” or can rest on our laurels.  Here are some of his other points:

Stop feeding your ego. Don’t isolate yourself from reality by building relationships with people who stroke your ego. Surrounding yourself with “yes people” is just like talking to yourself.

Compete against yourself. When you compete against others, it’s easy to emphasize winning over self-improvement. However, when you compete against yourself, you both win.

Even experts have room to learn. Never stop growing. Know your limitations and admit when you don’t know something. It’ll help to keep you grounded.

Listen up. Discover what others have to offer and ask for their opinions before opening your mouth. It shows that you value their opinions as well as their insight.

No one’s perfect. Don’t let success go to your head. Be quick to apologize for your mistakes. You’ll never learn anything or impress anyone by making excuses and diverting blame. And a little humility will remind you that you’re human.

Pat Lencioni has another column on humility here.

Whether you are an intern or a manager, you can be more humble by stopping to think about your attitude.  When you make a mistake, do you quickly blame others and complain, or do you analyze what you could have done better and ask others to help you?  When you succeed, do you brag and wait for others to congratulate you, or do you ask yourself how you can do even better next time?

Humility will always be difficult because our default attitude is pride, but a habit of being humble that starts early will pay off for your whole career.

Roger Custer is executive director at America’s Future Foundation