Building Situational Humility

The biggest thing I am working on is situational humility. How do I successfully balance the subject matter expertise my organization needs with the humility to truly lead? It is clear that such humility is critical to building psychological safety, and psychological safety is critical to building innovative teams.

Amy Edmondson’s powerful talk on psychological safety and teams

For most of my career I’ve been prized for my subject matter expertise, but there are huge limits, no one can know everything, so I am cultivating the following behaviors in my practices.

To build Humility do thisWhich meansAnd I do this
Know what you don’t knowResist “master of the universe” impulses. You may yourself excel in an area, but as a leader you are, by definition, a generalist. Rely on those who have relevant qualification and expertise. Know when to defer and delegate.I have a list of key topics that are both in my space and overlap and individuals who involving in the discussion is critical.

I’ve created a “swear jar” for every time I say something like “I have an answer” and at this rate I’ll be taking a lot of people out for drinks by the time this pandemic is over. It is all IOUs right now because I don’t remember the last time I used cash and I don’t think I’ve seen a dollar bill in 11 months.
Resist falling for your own publicityWe all put the best spin on our success — and then conveniently forget that the reality wasn’t as flawless. This is an interesting one for me. Having joined a new company 10 months ago it has been important to avoid the spin on my joining, and to not exacerbate it.

I’ve taken to keeping a list of problems and who is the right people who are not me that can solve them.
Never underestimate others The world is filled with other hard-working, knowledgable, and creative professionalsI purposely look for opportunities to meet with folks at all levels and ask them to collaborate.
Embrace and promote a spirit of serviceFocus on finding ways to help others to succeedI’m all about the development. Crucial for me here is stepping back and letting others lead, even if its more work for me as I spend more time coaching and mentoring than would actually take to do the job. But lets be honest, can’t and shouldn’t do anything.
Listen, even (no, especially) to the weird ideasOnly when you are not convinced that your idea is or will be better than someone else’s do you really open your ears to what they are saying. But there is ample evidence that you should: the most imaginative and valuable ideas tend to come from left field, from some associate who seems a little offbeat, and may not hold an exalted position in the organization.I love the weird, though maybe most when they are my weird ideas. Been working to strengthen idea management as a concept and practice in my organization.
Be passionately curiousConstantly welcome and seek out new knowledge, and insist on curiosity from those around you. Research has found linkages between curiosity and many positive leadership attributes (including emotional and social intelligence). Take it from Einstein. “I have no special talent,” he claimed. “I am only passionately curious.”I’m a voracious reading machine, its always been a central skill.

How I am trying to teach others to be curious and turn it to their advantage.
Elements of Situational Humility
Photo by rob walsh on Unsplash

WCQI Day 2 – afternoon

Leading Teams: Conflict for Innovation and Change” by Carolann Wolfgang, Marilyn Monda and Lukas Cap.

The Human Development and Leadership Division is one of those divisions that I don’t get. Not because I disagree with the content, it’s just I don’t get what makes it different from the Quality Management or Team Excellence Divisions. This presentation by three of the member leaders didn’t make that any easier.

This workshop was an attempt to blend a few concepts, such as powerful questions, human explorers and curiosity types together and build a tool kit for team excellence. As such it wore its source material on it’s sleeves and skipped a few spots. A few specific observations:

  • The powerful questions are good
    • Why does this [point] matter to you?
    • What outcome would make it a success for you?
    • Is the way you think about the conflict useful, realistic or accurate?
    • What events or choices led to this conflict?
    • What other courses of action can you think of?
    • What if this obstacle was removed?
    • What is behind that thought, resistance or idea?
    • What are the priorities right now, in this conflict?
  • Using the Five Dimensions of Curiosity is very interesting. I think it can benefit from more thought on problems and how different curiosities lend themselves to different types of problems.

“System Transformation – Your role as a Lean Leader” by Erin Christiaens and Jaret Moch.

Super high level review of lean transformations and lean leadership. I find these workshops valuable to check-in against and hear what people are saying. Plus the rest of the 3 pm workshops didn’t engage me.

Focused almost exclusively on lean leadership standard work. Gave a few nice templates, and I do like workshops that give templates.

It is fascinating to hear people on different levels of the lean journey, or frankly any quality culture transformation. It is one of my favorite parts of attending conferences.

Provided by Lead2Lean Solutions

Afternoon Keynote – Tricia Wang

Praising statistical analysis at a quality conference is a good crowd pleaser. Way to bond with the audience.