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When we think about successful people it’s easy for us to imagine a confident, assertive, in-control individual. But how natural is it for us to equate success with humility? Isn’t humility the opposite of assertive and in-control? Isn’t the humble person the person who gets stepped on and overlooked? Not if that person is infused with both confidence and humility, holding in tension these dual traits of a successful person.
In fact, I argue that it takes real confidence to be humble; to make the conversation about the other person, to make the aim of the work about someone else’s good, to give credit to others when you could easily take the credit yourself. Only a truly confident person can be so others focused, and being others focused is one of the surest ways to true success that I can imagine.
Let’s think about a situation where this kind of confidence based humility drives success.
In an initial encounter with a new client or prospect, the insecure sales person is often self-focused and therefore talks about himself and his products. She tells the client everything she knows about the client’s business and the challenges and opportunities they face. He talks about how his services or the features of his product will address those challenges and opportunities. The sales person does all this without ever asking a question, without ever digging deep to truly understand the client. The client is then forced to make a decision based solely on value, features, and benefits, all of which are aimed at a client type, not the client himself.
The confident and humble sales person, on the other hand, rarely speaks about herself or her product in the early stages of the sales cycle. She takes her time, asks probing questions, seeks the core values of the client, attempts to understand the uniqueness of the person and then the uniqueness of the business. While she is genuinely engaged and interested in the client she gains valuable insights that will help her tailor and package a solution that communicates to the client that this is about him, not her. It is about solving his unique problem, helping him reach his specific goals, giving him the tools he needs to thrive while serving his core values well.
Such other’s focused leadership requires risk, and that is the third element of success – risk tolerance. In any relationship it is risky to set your self-interest and self-preservation aside and make it all about serving the other person. They might hurt you, take advantage of you, or dismiss you. It is also risky to dig deep and move beyond the surface of features and benefits and seek the core motivations, hopes and fears of the people you seek to lead or win as clients. But one thing I will tell you is that the rewards are far greater than the risks.
When successfully deployed – confidence infused humility creates stronger bonds, forges deeper loyalty, and generates greater, longer lasting value for all. So, how are you with the tripartite of success: confidence, humility, risk-tolerance? As you grow in all three and learn to exercise them in unity you will see success in your business and more importantly, in your relationships.