Many of our clients fit the following profile: super smart, accomplished, ambitious, and humble. They are dedicated to their work and to maximizing their skills. They are good leaders. So why are they getting coaching?
One characteristic that comes up a lot with these brilliant folks is that their humility can actually get in the way every now and then. 90 percent of the time, it serves them, and their teams, really well. They are terrific collaborators. They don’t need to have the best idea. They’re happy to have others get the credit. People love working with them.
But then there’s that other 10 percent. This is when these leaders are talking about their work, advocating for a new project, speaking in front of the board of directors or the executive committee. Their natural humility shows up in their communication style, specifically in their vocabulary and emphasis.
- When a leader refers to “we” and “the team,” it’s unclear to the listener who did what. It can be more powerful to say “I led the team” or “I got the ball rolling and then X took the lead.”
- A tendency can be to underplay accomplishments in an effort not seem arrogant or “braggy.” A client said to me recently that he gives everything the same weight; the challenges, the day-to-day, and the wins are all delivered with the same inflection and pace. This makes it tough for the listener to know what’s important.
In the first example, I recommend that instead of defaulting to talking about “the team,” give credit where it’s due, and be specific about who did what.
In the second, choose what the peak of your report or briefing is going to be (I suggest you make the peak be a win, but that’s not always possible.) Allot the most time to this section, and slow down when you get to it. The audience reads your signals as to what’s important—if you pause, make eye contact, and use more vocal inflection and a slower pace, they understand that this is the main event.
Don’t change! We love our humble clients 🙂 But do know when it’s time to bring your light out from under the bushel.
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