Your Organization Won’t Change Until These 2 Things Are Embraced

Recently, I had a conversation with an old colleague who was asking me about some strategy and culture issues. The conversation centered on how an organization can find re-birth, re-development, and/or new life.

Through our discussion, I landed on two primary questions that left unanswered hold organizations back from positive change (yes, I know there are probably countless more, but these are easily codified and create a framework that allows you to deal with the others). The two questions almost seem so obvious that we should all know them yet, based on the present reality of many organizations, it either isn’t obvious or the answers are a resounding – NO!

  • Do you know who you are at your core?

This is not what you want to be, this is not what you tell people you are, this is who you are in reality…deep-down inside. The strengths and weaknesses, blessings and potholes, the history, the lost dreams, the past failures and victories, along with the present collection of individuals.

If you don’t know this, you can’t move in a positive direction. You will always continue to relive problems of the past, fight battles that don’t exist, or go in directions that don’t connect to the people within or outside of your organization.

  • Are you really ready to change?

Are you thinking, of course we want to change, we wouldn’t be talking about this unless we were? Many people talk about changing, growing, adapting, like they talk about values – they espouse this…they want to have something happen, but only mentally. The reality is in order to change, you have to deal with discomfort, you have to do something new, something outside your norm. That is often painful.

The reality for many organizations is that living in the status quo, the known, the norm, the pattern, is so much easier. It takes a lot to break out of a pattern, albeit mental or physical. Many times we like the idea of growth, newness, or change, but we are unwilling to do what it takes to get there.

There is hope. Change can occur, it is uncomfortable, it is hard, but it often means growth. Movements like Christianity, ending Slavery, Unionization, Civil Rights, etc. were painful and challenging. Organizations that have redefined themselves like IBM, 3M, Apple, etc. transformed their businesses and changed the way that their customers engaged them – and you can too! Courage, humility, and forgiveness are key ingredients to lead you on that journey!

Give Without Expecting to Get

ImageSo, I admit, I am biased. I am personally pre-disposed to the needs of the group, pre-disposed to helping others, pre-disposed to providing resources for those that are in my sphere. What is exciting is that research by Wharton professor Adam Grant, in his book Give and Take, shows that those that are truly concerned about giving before they get actually turn out to have more long-term success than those that are takers first (though takers do often seem to be ahead in the short term).

Beyond Grant’s research (which is fantastic), this idea has been creeping up in many other unrelated spheres. In his book Startup Communities, Brad Feld encourages those working in and around communities for startups to focus on giving first. In other books like Go-Giver similar principles are encouraged in a slightly different context.

The reality is setting in. People who give ultimately receive even more than those who take, but why? First, let me suggest that those that give actually receive, simply by giving to others (the Apostle Paul quotes Jesus as saying “it is more blessed to give than to receive” in a speech in Acts 20:35). Intrinsically we feel good when we give, serve, help, and care. Retail therapy has become a big part of our consumeristic culture, but it has nothing on giving therapy in the long run!

Second, the reality of givers are that they have a strong network of people. In the process of giving without expectations, you strengthen bonds by showing that you are in a relationship for the long haul, rather than seeking some quick repayment. There are often people who tell you that they are willing to help, want to do anything they can to assist, etc. but never actually follow through (great intentions, but just not the biggest priority for them). Then there are those who are givers, these people thrive off of sharing with others and seeing them succeed.

Today, take some time to evaluate your mode – are you a giver? In what areas do you find yourself more pre-disposed to give? How do you react to the idea that givers get further in life than takers? Has that been your reality?

If it doesn’t challenge me, why do it?

This post continues the series on humility, previous posts can be found herehere, and here. It is the last in the 4-part humility series and is a follow-up from a weekend retreat for teens that was focused on Paul’s Letter to the Philippian Church.

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50 teenagers sat uncomfortably (at first) as it was rolled out that this weekend wasn’t about them. Well, more specifically, it wasn’t about them as individuals. It was about the group, it was about service, it was about relationships, and it was about embracing their faith. Talk about a tough message to a generation of people who have grown up with a steady diet of me-centric media…but if it isn’t tough, why do it?

What is amazing is that they respond. Tell them that they have a choice – live a life that looks self-centered, potentially abusive, and self-gratifying or a life that is other-focused, concerned about the good for others, and self-emptying and it surprising that they actually seem excited for this “new” path forward.

I think all too often we offer simple solutions, band-aid fixes, and low hanging fruit to people when what they really want (or at least need) are transformative experiences, deep and hard self-work, and big goals.

What if we asked people to help others without being concerned about their desires all the time? What would happen if we asked people to let go of the things that they are holding onto in order to lift the burdens of someone else? What if we asked them to forgive, rather than to hold onto grudges?

The answer to these questions is that we would have a wholly different society. One that was not focused with getting its own way, or constant self-gratification, but instead recognized that every person in showing value to others would actually have more than enough as in giving they themselves receive.

So, enough writing and talking about the subject, who is ready to enact this challenge. For 30 days, live with an other-focused orientation showing honor to others above even your ownself. Encourage them, serve them, and stop worrying about “getting yours”. I guarantee that you will see change among those that surround you and within your ownself.

Live big, otherwise what is the point – who wants to live a small and petty life?

[Friday Coaching Corner] How Humility Impacts Organizations

This post continues the series on humility, previous posts can be found here and here. It also is part of the weekly Friday “Coaching Corner” (a deeper, more  in-depth focus on organizational development and related subjects)

When I began examining humility one thing bothered within the literature – it only examined and discussed humility as something that happens within the individual. As a researcher and practitioner focused on teams and groups, I was more interested in how humility (which as I have already posted in this series is one of my favorite topics to discuss) can transcend the individual and actually make its home within the fabric of a group or team. So I set out to build a case that this very thing was a reality. A discussion of the research, and its implications for organizations follows.

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The Perception of Group Humility (PGH) Scale was developed through a two-part research study examining individuals working as Emergency Medical Technicians in part 1, and those who are Middle School Teachers in part 2. Saving you the very technical aspects of the research (e.g. validation, factor analysis and the like). In the second study, an examination of the relationship between the PGH scale and some very important organizational activities was engaged. The results were overwhelmingly positive!

The results of this study presented that the existence of higher levels of the PGH positively related to the existence of Participative Leadership Behaviors (willingness for leaders to allow others to participate in the leadership process), Collective Efficacy (expectation that a group can accomplish the tasks before them), Organizational Citizenship Behaviors (positive behaviors enacted by members of an organization to show care for others), and Team-Learning Orientation (the focus a group has on learning).

These findings are important to any organization, as within the present organizational environment a great deal of collaboration and sharing of resources is needed for a positive, learning-centered culture. At the core, the humility virtue – and by extension, the group humility phenomena – seems to render a path forward in understanding how the challenge of individual and collective humility can be best engendered.

This path forward occurs as the organization promotes the value of humility as advantageous to their culture and performance. The understanding that humility includes a low self-focus, accurate portrayal of self and others, willingness to learn, and appreciation of others can serve to aid organizations significantly.Some areas that humility has the distinct potential to impact organizations are: long-term planning, enculturation of new organizational members, leadership development, and group functioning.

In this research, humility was examined for its ability to transcend the individual and become a group trait/norm. Through the perception of group members participating in Study I was validated. Group members were able to perceive within their teams/groups the presence of a willingness to learn, proper placement of self in relation to others, care and concern for group members, and an accurate self-knowledge. In Study II, the four hypotheses were examined, with each data set displaying a significant, positive relationships between Perceived Group Humility and the outcome variable. In each of the regression analyses a positive relationship was found, as had been posited based on the theoretical underpinnings found in the literature. The strength of the relationship in each of the four was more than expected, with the final three hypotheses showing extremely strong relationship.

The statistical results of this research inquiry present an important case for the value of PGH in its relationship to other positive, other-oriented (and well accepted) group constructs. As such, we see the multi-functional aspect of group humility with its influence on leadership behaviors, expectations of efficacy, citizenship behaviors, and learning paradigm. While it is too soon to say what this construct will show over the course of time, the PGH scale clearly offers tremendous insight into important areas of growth for organizations as they daily enact group structures.

Discussion of the Claims of the Research Study

This research follows within a research agenda seeking to better understand what humility actually is. Over the last decade and a half, the process of re-establishing the definition of humility has made great strides in moving away from the mentality of the downtrodden, lacking, ‘wimp’ to the pattern held by individuals (and now – groups) that exhibit a low self-focus, an acknowledgement of personal limitations, openness to the ideas of others, the ability to keep one’s accomplishments and abilities in the proper perspective, and an appreciation of the value of all things (see research by  Julie Tangney at George Mason University).

This research established that the presence of PGH was a vital foundation for virtuous behaviors. At the outset of this study, it was posited in that humility has the potential to re-orient individuals, groups, organizations, and even societies. Within the studies in this research, it was established that the presence of humility within a group is strongly related to the orientation of helping others. This fits well with previous findings, in which individuals exemplifying humility have a low self-focus, an appreciation of the strengths of others, and a desire to learn. In an ever-changing world, that is continually finding opportunities for the use of groups, the understanding that groups can have significant impact both internally and externally through the enactment of group humility, leads to the possibility that an encouragement of real and substantive good can be engaged in organizations and communities.

Organizations can also benefit significantly from the new understanding of the effects of humility on learning, particularly that of a group. As learning has become a vital financial (as well as operational) concern in organizations, it is of increasing importance for organizational leaders to better understand how to encourage the growth and learning of groups and their members. While arrogant individuals and those expressing low-humility are unlikely to engage in, and enact new learnings, individuals and groups that express humility are more likely to seek out new learnings, as they first recognize that they are not perfect. In Study II the data showed that there was a strong, positive relationship between PGH and a Team-Learning Orientation. The importance of humility within individuals and groups (as the connection to team-learning orientation should note) may prove to be valuable in finding an increase in the transfer of training rates, and thus the financial allocation for training within organizations.

Finally, this study provides great hope for how humility and collective efficacy in tandem can establish more accurate goal-setting and performance expectations. Organizations stand to be in much better position, fiscally, purely through the means of better understanding their own competencies and capabilities. In this research it was established that there is a strong, positive relationship between PGH and Collective Efficacy. With this connection at the forefront, the presence of group humility and the correlate, a higher level of collective efficacy, should present an opportunity for establishing proper, reachable standards, thus helping prevent a great deal of waste, over-inflated goals, and the potential for new areas of growth.

Opportunities for Organizations

These findings have the potential to positively impact the culture and bottom line of any organization through the implementation of some, or all of the following methods:

1)      Beginning with upper leadership, model humility through:

  1. A demonstrated willingness to learn, as well as the acknowledging the specialized knowledge that others bring to the table.
  2. Maintaining a proper placement of themselves (not overly important or overly unimportant, not taking credit for what others have done, etc.)
  3. Show care and concern for other group/organization members through checking in at appropriate junctures and assessing what is needed for others to thrive.
  4. Develop an open and honest feedback circle which allows for an understanding of what one does well and needs to improve on.

2)      Demonstrate the importance of organizational values through:

  1. Display values in public places.
  2. Enactment of feedback processes for recognizing extraordinary examples.
  3. Consistent reminder and encouragement of these values.

It is important that while encouraging and researching the value and importance of humility within groups and organizations, that humility doesn’t become ‘cheapened’ or ‘manufactured’. When individuals and groups truly enact the behaviors that undergird humility, growth most certainly will take place. However, when false modesty is implemented and modeled, little value will be found.

True humility, as enacted within groups should assist the development of an uplifting organizational climate. With the recasting of the humility construct and the substantiation of humility as leading to care and development of others, humility solidifies its value in the organization. As such, it is imperative that organizations, awake to the blessings found in this humble perspective. Given that almost every organization utilizes groups for some aspect or function, it should become imperative for organizations of all stripes to seek for better understanding about how group humility functions, how it can be encouraged, and what that means for recruitment, leadership, and training.

If you would like to learn more about this research and the Perception of Group Humility scale, please leave a comment below.

Owning your differences, while respecting others uniqueness

This post is part of a 4-post series on humility that began yesterday.

I am not sure when I really started to get it. I can think of moments along the way. When I was the only kid in my sixth grade class that voted for George H. W. Bush in the 1992 Presidential Election (though 1 other kid voted for Perot). When I sought work in politics just out of high school. Or even when a life in ministry was actually appealing as a 20-something. I was different, and I owned that.

The reality was, that while I was learning to appreciate my own differences, it wasn’t until my mid-20s that I really began to appreciate the uniqueness I found in others. No, not just my friends, schoolmates, and co-workers. I mean the person living in the homeless shelter, the family struggling to make ends meet while working multiple jobs and getting assistance from the government, or even those people whose lives had been broken by addiction. I had previously either overlooked or discarded these people.

Two of the core realities of the humility construct are a willingness to learn/teachability and a willingness to see the strengths of others. While I had grown in my willingness to examine myself accurately, I had not often given the same right to others. When you  step back and open yourself up to learning from others and appreciating who they are (regardless of the baggage we all carry), something amazing happens.

My life has grown so much from people who are different than I am. They share with me their stories and allow me into their world which looks and feels nothing like my existence. These are amazing and humbling moments in which you understand that the world is much greater than just your own perspective.

Through others giving me permission to learn their story, I find that even in most of vast disagreement we can do so providing dignity, honor, and respect for one another and how we have reached our conclusions, values, and actions.  I have owned my differences for years, but now I continue to learn how to respect the uniqueness of others.

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It’s Not About Me!

One of my favorite subjects to discuss (and the focus of my dissertation) is humility. This often misunderstood phenomenon is one of the most needed, yet least found character traits in Western society today. But what actually is humility?

This weekend, I will be helping to lead a group of teens to engage a theme that is contrary to just about every notion recognizable in culture today: “It’s Not About Me!” Society screams that the me-centric lifestyle is a must in our (disgusting) over-emphasis on self in our technology (MySpace was followed by Facebook was followed by the Selfie as king or queen of the average teen). While a decade and a half ago when I was growing up we did emphasize self-esteem, I think we were able to differentiate that construct from the seeming self-addiction that clouds our culture today. But what can actually be done about the me-cravings?

The first thing that can be done is to point toward positive examples of humility. These examples are present, and even the media will pick up on them every now and again, but the problem is we put so much attention on the Biebers, Lohans, and Kardashians of the world (not to mention all of the media hungry individuals that seem to pop up on reality TV) that we have drowned out the people that consistently show care and concern for others, aren’t self-absorbed, and seek to serve.

The second thing to be done is to encourage people to know themselves enough that they don’t have to be absorbed with themselves. That is the irony of our society, we are probably more self-focused than at any other time in history, but yet we seem to really not even know (or be willing to admit what we know about) ourselves.

From now through Monday, humility will be the major focus of this space (with Friday being a special edition of “Coaching Corner” on humility), as we work to promote other-focused individuals, teams, and organizations that truly get the importance of caring for one another so that we all can grow – together!

Stay tuned!