Why being humble and curious are essential traits for leaders
Remove the business metrics, financial reports, and marketing of companies and we are able to discover that behind each win are the people that make organizations tick. It’s a reminder that when an organization thrives, it’s because we see people who genuinely care about others and work together to get things done. At the core of high performing teams are two essential traits. OneStone’s VP of Client Management, Jimmy Barber, perfectly illustrates the two traits he believes makes an organization admirable and are essential to build out the best performing teams and fostering strong client relationships.
Being humble is not only a lack of arrogance but it’s the firm belief that you don’t know everything, and your mind can be opened. It’s the start of continuous growth and learning. “Ecommerce changes so quickly and it’s common for a new program to be out for only 2 months with everyone claiming they are an expert at it. No one can be an expert right away,” says Jimmy. “It’s a tricky place to be in as an agency because clients hire you to be an expert, but I believe they also value you because you come from a place of learning and resourcefulness. Our people have a stronger consultant-like experience than anyone else.”
Humble leaders actively seek out ideas from others and encourage each individual to provide their unique perspective. “I’ve found as I build out my team, I want to bring in people that continuously elevate our experience and knowledge. If you don’t have a healthy dose of humility, you won’t be able to connect with more people. In an industry that changes so much, if you’re carrying an ego about something that just came out a month ago it doesn’t help. It stunts learning and you won’t help your team and, most importantly, your client.”
Curiosity is our desire to learn or know more about anything and Jimmy believes it’s impossible to be successful without it. People with a strong sense of curiosity can become the “experts” people trust but of course they need to have the openness that comes from a place of being humble.
When thinking about the existence of ecommerce throughout the entire historical timeline of commerce, it’s relatively small. So how did Jimmy get into the ecommerce industry? Curiosity. “It started in college when I opened up a sellers account on eBay and Amazon,” explains Jimmy. Sure, anyone can read a step-by-step or an article explaining how components of ecommerce works, but the only way to truly understand anything is approach learning by doing. Take swimming, for example – how did you learn how to swim? Did you read an article about swimming that explained the mechanics, a step-by-step on how to position your arms and legs, and techniques of moving your body through water or did you actually get in the water with others guiding you with the freedom to test, fail, and learn?
The connection is clear
By now, you’ve noticed how humbleness and curiosity are closely related. The connectedness is quite clear, and you need both. Humble and disinterested people are pleasant to work with but rarely take on new challenges. Egotistical and curious people wear everyone down. Both are essential for enabling strategy, finding new ways to approach problems, and building trust.
Jimmy asks, “Do they look at point A and how it relates to point B and just accept it, or do they look at it and say, ‘know that I know that, how does point C play into it?’” Jimmy goes on further to say that when deciding to add more people to your team, ask what they do outside of work because this often leans into how they think about the world. Is their spare time doing things around learning? What can they teach us?
We see this in action every day at OneStone. Strong results are the product of creating an environment that is low-risk for the team to experiment with their ideas and push the envelope of what they already know. Leaders who demonstrate humbleness and curiosity are able to serve their teams better and outcomes are outstanding. They are able to credit others, accept feedback, and continuously keep up with change by learning quickly.
Finally, when asked what guides his approach to leadership, Jimmy shares, “I’m not here to make me better. I’m here to make my team better.”
You can follow Jimmy on Linkedin HERE
Here are ways to develop yourself as a humble and curious leader from Fast Company:
- Motivate yourself by focusing on how you are driving outstanding results instead of your own success, and promote what you are doing as a way for your team to be recognized.
- Think about what values define you as a leader such as courage, compassion, and integrity in order to develop a positive leadership identity that transcends your own personal success and helps you communicate your values as a leader.
- Be as transparent as possible with leadership about your aspiration as a way to drive your development and avoid becoming viewed as a good soldier.
- Developing humility requires increased self-awareness and motivation to change your mind-set and behavior.
- Seek consistent feedback and use a coach to enable desired behavior change.
- Deepen your motivation by connecting it to a bigger purpose and, therefore, the opportunity to make a bigger impact.