The final piece of the culture puzzle is humility. The ability to be modest and humble and recognise that someone else may have a better idea.
I have a friend named ‘Blue’. As every Australian knows we call him that because he has red hair. Blue is a great mate. Honest, funny, trustworthy and loyal. He understands empathy. One afternoon he calls me and asks if I would go out on the town with him to meet some girls. Even though Blue has all of these wonderful traits, one thing he can not do is talk to members of the opposite sex.
When it came to girls, Blue suddenly loses all ability to string syllables together, let alone sentences. A bit like Kuthra Polly on The Big Bang Theory. Unfortunately though, even consuming alcohol doesn’t help Blue.
I agree to be his Wingman for the evening. We hit the town, walk into our first club and I motion to Blue to pick out some girls that he would like to talk to. He notices a group of about four beautiful young women seated at a table across the room. ‘What do I do?’ he says. I say, ‘just go over and say, hi.’ Ask them if they would like a drink. ‘He asks me to come over with him. We both walk over and true to form, Blue struggles to even get his name out as he sits down next to one of the young women. I sit on the other of the same girl to try and give Blue support but unfortunately, nothing legible comes out of his mouth. Blue looks at me for guidance. I said Hi and start talking to this girl.
At this point, Blue shows true humility. He accepts that my way is better.
Blue’s modesty and lack of vanity allows me to keep talking to this beautiful girl who I married two years later and this year we celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary.
Showing humility is hard, especially for traditional leaders. Old power and old culture suggests that leaders are the ones that tell people what to do, they have answers. Humility can feel soft when times are hard and may make leaders appear vulnerable. Be here’s the thing. This is exactly humility’s virtue. The most effective business leaders don’t pretend to have all the answers; the world is just too complicated for that. The best leaders get the best ideas from the best people, whoever and wherever those people may be.
We always have a choice. We can either accept the dependency on others or deny such dependency, avoid humility and fail to achieve our goals or wittingly or unwittingly sabotage them. Unfortunately, most people would often rather fail than admit to their dependence on someone else.
We live in a world where ego gets attention but modesty gets results. Where arrogance makes headlines but humility makes a difference. In the face of this, can we be confident to show humility? Can we admit we don’t know?
Perhaps one the 20th & 21st century’s greatest poets, Steve Tyler, the lead singer of Aerosmith, who gave us the hits such as ‘I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing’ summed it up best when he said, ‘Humility is really important because it keeps you fresh and new’.
And just like our society where everything constantly feels like things need to be fresh and new, making sure our cultures are ones that can stand the test of time and evolve with the passage of time, with the right values, strong empathy and a good dose of humility, our value propositions are truly best centred in the heart of our culture.
As I said at the beginning, as social animals we all have a need to belong. In Paleolithic times the world was full of danger. All these forces of danger were working very hard to kill us. We combated this by living and working together. We created a safety zone called the tribe where we knew we belonged. We developed trust and cooperation with people. We knew we could sleep safely at night because someone else in the tribe would look out for us. It’s exactly the same today. The world is still filled with danger, uncertainty, opportunities for success. Technology can render your business model obsolete overnight. All of your oppositions are trying to put you out of business or at the very minimum, working hard to frustrate your growth. We have other forces, variables, other conditions inside the organisation trying to do the same thing. This is why culture matters because culture is our code. It’s the value proposition that makes other people want to be part of us, and those that are part of us, want to stay with us. Why? Because they feel safe. Maslow’s fundamental human need. When the culture is right and people are safe, they share the same values, are empathetic toward one another and practise humility. It is at this time when remarkable things happen.
Make culture your value proposition.