Three Ways Humility Improves Your Effectiveness At Work

Work Hard Stay Humble

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Your attitude plays a key role in shaping your approach to work. As John C Maxwell explains in his book The Difference Maker, a good attitude is a valuable asset that keeps you going. Cultivating the right attitude for professional success takes effort however. Appreciating the importance of humility is a key way to sustain your attitude.

Defining Humility: Nobody Has All The Answers

Being humble has several meanings. In the definitions I have read, it is favourably contrasted with pride and arrogance. In that sense, I see humility as being open to new ideas. Further, it is a realization that the complexity of the world makes it difficult to have all the answers. In the world of knowledge work, this is an important perspective for us to keep in mind. As Karin Hurt points out, a humble attitude helps leaders adjust to new challenges: 9 Ways Confident Leaders Remain Humble.

In this article, I will explain three ways that a humble attitude improves your effectiveness at work.

The Humble Approach To Planning

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” Paul J. Meyer

Planning your work is a valuable exercise whether you are organizing your own work or coordinating a large organization. In some circles, planning has a poor reputation because it has become a procrastination technique. In other communities, planning is criticized because it suggests an inflexible approach to changing conditions. Fortunately, a humble approach to planning provides a solution.

  • The humble planner asks: Who else has tried to do this? What can I learn from them?
  • The humble planner seeks feedback: Who can I show my draft to? How can I make use of their comments, positive and negative?
  • The humble planner understands the challenge of planning the future: I am confident about planning the next month of work but I know that planning activities a year from now is challenging.

The Humble Approach To Meetings

Meetings are one of the key professional techniques that professionals use to achieve important work. Some commentators have estimated that a professional is likely to attend thousands of meetings with thousands of people over the course of their career. Given how many important decisions are made in meetings, it makes sense to improve our meeting habits. The humble attitude helps us have better meeting experiences whether we are running the meeting or not.

  • The humble meeting reconsiders using jargon: Once I didn’t know all of these terms and perhaps others do not know them either.
  • The humble meeting organizer helps new people: Attending a recurring meeting for the first time is challenging. A humble professional emphasizes with those challenges and looks for ways to help colleagues.

The Humble Approach To Continuing Education

Continuing education is one of my interests and personal best practices. Since completing my university studies, I have taken continuing education courses in accounting, economics, project management, financial planning and other fields. In part, my continuing education studies are designed to address the fact that my university studies had limited coverage of traditional business disciplines. In that case, I was humble to admit what I did not know and sought out education to address those gaps. Admitting that you do know something and then taking action to address that gap puts you into the curious elite.

  • Technical Skills. Many of us can become more effective by developing stronger technology skills. You start with simple ad hoc solutions such as watching a short tutorial on YouTube. For added depth, I suggest taking a course through or If you use Excel or Access all day, the Internet is filled with resources to help become more effective.
  • Business Skills. There’s no limit to how much more effective you can become ain your business skills. For example, if you are interested in becoming more effective at sales or management, you have many courses, books and coaches to consider.
  • Industry Knowledge. Becoming knowledgeable about trends in your industry gives you a broader perspective and it puts your efforts into context. For example, you can learn how your company’s financial performance compares to competitors using measures such as return on equity or revenue growth. To get started, consider buying a subscription to an industry magazine (e.g. if you work in the financial industry in North America, American Banker is a great place to start building your industry knowledge).
  • Personal Development and Emotional Intelligence. Recently, I attended an excellent presentation by Geoff Crane who pointed out that emotional intelligence improves performance in project management. His studies are far range from goal setting and other vital soft skills. Many of these topics are covered at length in books and courses on goal setting (e.g. 5 Days To Your Best Year Ever course by Michael Hyatt – I use his course), motivation (e.g. The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard looking forward to reading it) and mindfulness.

Share Your Thoughts:

In the comments section, share your experiences with achieving progress using the humble mindset. How are you going to change your approach to planning, meetings or continuing education as a result of reading this article?

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