Demonstrate humility to gain respect from your team


When your team member screws up, and admits it, that’s a good sign. The ability to eat humble pie is a virtue.

“Humility is the single greatest and most indispensable attribute of being a team player”, says Patrick Lencioni, in The Ideal Team Player.

Teamwork and humility

Over the decades, I’ve been a part of countless teams, project teams, board teams, community teams, served as a consultant to teams, mediated dysfunctional teams, and observed a multitude of teams, vicariously; e.g., my favourite pro sports teams.

No matter the context, I’m always impressed when team members, and especially team leaders, respond constructively, through their humility, no matter if things went wrong or right. They opt to open up to other’s opinions, admit their mistakes (avoiding the blame game), tend to other’s needs, accept ambiguity, self-reflect, and let people do their jobs.

On the flipside, team members, and especially leaders, who show glee and arrogance with their individual achievement, yet are quick to pass blame when they or others slip up; well, we all know those people. They are not team players, at least as I interpret the team concept; one of collaboration, integrated behaviour, and collective action.

While I value humility, I’ve been on both sides of the coin. Alas, it’s a forever battle to not take oneself too seriously.

What would your teammates say about you?

Lencioni offers up this six question self-assessment, as a measure of your humility.

For each question, assess yourself on a scale of:  3 =  Usually    2 = Sometimes   1 = Rarely

My teammates would say:

  1. I compliment or praise them without hesitation.
  2. I easily admit to my mistakes.
  3. I am willing to take on lower-level work for the good of the team.
  4. I gladly share credit for team accomplishments.
  5. I readily acknowledge my weaknesses.
  6. I offer and accept apologies graciously.

If you scored 16 or less (max score is 18), you have work to do.

From values to behaviours

The same questions (above) can be used to define valued behaviours; e.g., if your team says that it values humility, use the questions as a guide, to solicit team member feedback and measure member alignment with the value (humility).

Does your team value humility? Do you measure humility?

[Ben provides conflict management services for small to medium-sized businesses, nonprofits and local governments. Contact Ben.]

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