Posts Tagged ‘humility’

humility courage discipline“What do I do when overwhelmed and projects pull me in several directions?” That is a common question. The short answer is, “Practice humility, courage, and discipline.”

Humility is simply appreciating where the boundary is between what I can do and what I can’t do. When on the “can” side get to work focusing on success. When on the “can’t” side see if help is available within the time frame required. If that help isn’t available then it is time to either cut scope or extend the schedule. Another way to state humility is, “I have a place in the universe; it just isn’t at the center.”

Courage is risking action (or being still) when there are no guarantees the desired outcome will be achieved. This doesn’t mean the outcome can’t be achieved. Rather, it is about breaking into new territory and getting away from “same-old, same-old” behavior. Courage can also mean taking action when there are insufficient resources and attempting to get political movement by pushing on power brokers.

For example, risking building a prototype of a product you just KNOW the client will want and doing this BEFORE there is any commitment. “Taking a calculated risk,” might be another way to describe the exercise of courage. Keep in mind; this is different than being foolhardy.  When someone is foolhardy they throw caution to the wind. With foolhardy, think of the firm with no depth that mastered PowerPoint and then was at a loss as to what to do once they win the contract.

Discipline is what brings it all together. There are two ways to define discipline and both are relevant. The first definition is: know your area of expertise and how best to apply it. Practice, practice, practice.

The second definition ties back into humility. You must be able to maintain a sharp focus and broad view simultaneously. Imagine you are a surgeon and want to save the patient. The decision as to whether or not to operate goes beyond your ability with the surgical techniques. It is critical to consider whether or not the patient might die while under anesthetic.

This all adds up to wisdom, the ability to find a balance point among all the principles when the rules are either absent or fail to point in a clear direction. There’s an old saying that sums the challenge of the situation well, “Success comes from experience which comes from failure.” There are no guarantees but without trying you’ll never know. Remember to breathe and take a calculated risk.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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Character and Personality #8: Competency

by Gary Monti on August 24, 2010

Delivering the goods is the final judgment for leaders. This means in addition to charisma there needs to be character strength and competency. Competency means, “to be fit for (Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology).” This can be challenging because of the number of boundaries present, which can be fluid and not always precise. In general, though, the boundaries can be looked at as those between technology and sophistication.

Technology

“Technology” comes from the Greek “techne” and refers to a craft or skill for getting things done such as farming or carpentry. So, technology has to do with the rules for getting things done, for implementing. This is why tools are also called implements. There is no reflection of greater truths. It’s just about what it takes to get something done, e.g., the creation of a circuit board. A competent leader is keenly aware of the need to pay close attention to the technology and its implementation since the devil is in the details. Does the leader need to be technically competent? No. The leader can be surrounded by those possessing technology and a willingness to work together to bring about the product (more on that later). Does this mean that technology is trivial – far from it. The technology can exist outside of the leader.

Sophistication

“Sophistication” comes from the Greek “sophia” and means “wisdom”. A leader needs to be sophisticated which has a great deal of humility associated with it (see blog on humility). In other words, a competent leader is aware of the limits present in a situation, including his or her own.

Wisdom has a depth to it that goes beyond technical competency. A competent leader understands that in a complicated situation there is more than one truth system at play. In fact, there is at least one truth system for every belief system present.

Competent Leadership

A competent leader finds a balance among the technologies and truth systems present. An earlier blog on change management references Henry Kaiser and his ability to lead in bringing Liberty ships to life in World War II. Aristotle referred to this type of person as a good politician, one who finds a way to thread through a situation to reveal a path that, when followed, benefits the common good.

There is a fluidity to a leadership situation. To be competent means to be grounded in the right set of principles with the right priorities and be able to flex with the situation. There are no rules for that. There is no technology.

Maybe you can see why it is so important to be able to answer the question, “Who are you?” discussed in the blog on Panic and Self-Doubt. Unlike technology, sophistication must be within the leader.

The importance of technology then is a reflection of sophistication. A reflection of the balance within and among the leader and stakeholders involved, including the team. Competence pulls all of the above together so that one person can meet another person’s needs, i.e., a connection comprising the humanity of the stakeholders who need and commit to finding a solution that works.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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Character and Personality #6: Humility

by Gary Monti on August 10, 2010

When conducting workshops on complex projects a common question is, “What characteristics must a leader have?” The next few blogs we will break away from temperament and cover several of the important character traits. The first is humility.

Conversations around this word can be all over the map. When asked for synonyms responses include “submissive,” “quiet,” and “unassertive,” and “cautious” to name a few. Let’s see if some clarity can be brought to the situation.

“To Serve”

We took a peek at humility in an earlier blog referring to samurai. “Samurai” means “to serve.” Samurai were humble. They knew their limits and worked within them. Getting the picture? If not, maybe it will become clearer by looking at one of my favorite quotes which happens to be anonymous:

“There are two types of people in the world – those who are humble and those who are about to be.”

Humility has less to do with affect (how we look to the outside world, e.g., quiet) and more to do with awareness; specifically awareness of one’s limitations. One reason teams come about is humility. Together we can work beyond our individual limits. Being humble, we can also pay attention to real boundaries and calculate how to push on them.

Humiliation

This all sounds well and good. But isn’t there an element of truth ringing in the words “submissive,” “unassertive,” etc.? No.

The meaning of humility may become clearer when compared to the word it is commonly confused with  – humiliation. There are two parts to the meaning of each word. The first part is the same, “To go to a small place.” It is in the second part where the words differ dramatically. With humility I choose to go to that small place. With humiliation…you probably have guessed it…I am pushed there by someone else!

Nice People Apparently Doing Bad Things

These definitions are morally neutral. Let me explain. You might know of a couple going through the following situation. One member (A) of a couple gets the job offer from heaven! The problem is it requires uprooting and moving to another city. This can humiliate the other partner (B) who might ask, “What about me?” Assuming A is free of any malicious thoughts of manipulating B, B still is saddled with an unfairness that needs to be addressed.  The challenge of interdependence is present. (For more on interdependence, see William Reed’s blog.) B is going to have to take a risk in order to work interdependently with A.

Fast-Paced Organizations

This issue shows up on the job on an almost daily basis. When a company says they are fluid, flexible, and fast-paced and will work to meet or exceed customer needs a set of questions comes to mind including, “Is the leader humble?” and “Does the leader watch for potentially humiliating situations and work with those who get pushed there?”

The principles by which the leader lives come into play. In the blog on navigating through change management the need for the leader to be steadfast, open, and available is discussed, i.e., the leader staying humble and stable – serving as a reference point for those who are feeling a bit humiliated as well as those who are getting to stay on their chosen path. Both groups of people are part of the success.

The Payoff

It is hard to overstate how much humility combined with interdependence contributes to creating a powerful team. Trust is present which fuels a feed-forward instead of a looking-back-and-wondering-what-happened frame of mind. The awareness of limits leads to better decision-making so not only is the team moving faster there is a higher probability of sustaining success. So, the next time humble pie is being served consider asking for a second slice.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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