3. Humility (Creative Qualities)

November 13, 2019

Part Three … what is humility?

The Cambridge dictionary defines it as, “The quality of not being proud because you are aware of your bad qualities.”

I don’t think anybody (deep deep down) believes that they are perfect. However, it is still possible to fall into traps and forget to be humble. I know I have. I think work situations in particular can really test people. Success can also put people on pedestals, which in turn can encourage vanity, boastfulness and self-importance.

I hate to say it but I’ve been called arrogant. More than once and it’s a tough pill to swallow.

No matter how you perceive yourself and your actions, a few throwaway words or a small gesture can have a huge impact on another person, whether you realise it or not.

So, this article covers some home truths for me and this ‘Creativity Quest’ is proving to be a great vehicle for the journey.

Let’s identify the link between humility and creativity.

– Humility helps us to be receptive to new information and ideas.

– Humility helps us wonder about how something might be different.

– Creativity works best when we are open to options and not when we have the door of possibility closed.

Imagine running into a room and shouting, “I’ve got an amazing idea!” only for your words to fall on deaf ears. It’s a huge pain-point for creatives. Call it neediness or attention-seeking if you want to, but people who enjoy coming up with ideas usually want to share them.

I know that I can sometimes get carried away with my ideas. My enthusiasm for creating content can become annoying if it becomes a one-sided conversation (… just ask my wife). Therefore, listening to others is probably the best thing we can do, whether that’s listening to an idea or listening to the feedback that’s given.

When I run ideation workshops, I outline 5 rules at the start …

1. Every person and every idea is equal.

2. Don’t judge or evaluate any ideas straight away.

3. Quantity rather than quality (to start with).

4. Build on each others ideas.

5. Record ALL ideas.

The difference between being a cog in a wheel and collaborating as an equal can vary in the workplace. My ideation workshops are designed to encourage attendees to be open-minded because people can get too wrapped up in their own ideas, they might intimidate junior members of staff and they can unknowingly kill the creativity in the room if they go unchecked.

Humility is a hard trait to develop because it has to start from a recognition that you are not always right and that you do not have all the answers. That is harder to admit than just saying, “Nobody’s perfect,” especially if you feel under pressure to be the one who has the answers.

The world teaches us that not knowing the right answer can lead to humiliation, damage to your reputation and missed opportunities. I am sure you have heard the phrase, “It’s a dog eat dog world out there!”  

The problem with this point of view is it encourages aggressive behaviour with the intent to get what you need in life at almost any cost. Call me soft but I know I am not well suited to some working environments because I would not put up with abusive bosses, snakey cut-throat tactics and blame cultures.

Assertiveness on the other hand is compatible with humility.

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” 

I am unsure whether CS Lewis actually ever said the above quote but regardless, it’s a good line.

You have to stand up for yourself and others by putting your point of view across calmly and with recognition that you are no more or less important than others. Everyone has an equal right to be heard.

Can I practice what I preach? I hope so. I really do. I have been bringing a lot of young upcoming talent into the company these last few years, many still studying at university. I am hyper aware of the team culture I am bringing them into and it is important to me that I get it right.

Do you know your limitations as well as your strengths?

I ask new members of my team to do a SWOT analysis when I meet them.

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Everyone in my team has at some point done a SWOT analysis. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend doing one.

What comes next?

Use the information in the SWOT analysis. I look at how the individual’s strengths can be applied to core tasks within the company. That provides immediate value and also strengthens the individual’s confidence.

Then I focus on the individual’s weaker skills, specifically one that they want to improve. As long as they have a good attitude, I will happily invest time into helping them get better at that skill.

Opportunities and Threats can sometimes take a bit longer to draw out but they help you understand the mindset of an individual, such as what motivates them and what’s worrying them. I have learned that even when someone is good at something, it doesn’t mean they see themselves doing it long term.

5 useful steps for developing humility:

1. Spend time listening to others.

2. Ask for help when you need it.

3. Be grateful for what you have.

4. Seek feedback from others on a regular basis.

5. Review your actions.

That concludes today’s Creative Qualities article. My next piece is going to be on Mindfulness. Stay tuned!

If you are interested in looking at your creative qualities and those of your team, send me an email.

Thanks for reading!

Tom Marshall

Creative Director, Captive North