Staying Humble

It would seem like an easy thing to do. But for so many entrepreneurs, and especially CEOs, it is very, very difficult. Part of it is because of human nature for wanting power and respect, while part of it is because it’s not the characteristic portrayed in the media.

In fact, it is hard to find a famous CEO out there who people would describe as humble. But here is the difference: just as you wouldn’t look at Facebook, and naturally think the rule to building a company is to simply put it out there, you shouldn’t look at asshole CEOs and think that’s the way to lead.

What I’ve learned is that the key to every new hire, every new contract, and building a team of advisors who really are willing to do anything for you, is to keep your humility. This is exceedingly important if you are not an entrepreneur with money – and if you are reading this blog that likely describes you.

Why is it importance to do so? Professor Dan Ariely  highlights that what motivates people at work is not the money, it’s the acknowledgement.  What I’ve found in my short time running my business is that this goes to extraordinary lengths, and pays great dividends. People who see your humility are more likely to see you as human. And when you appreciate – genuinely appreciate – what they have to offer, they are much more willing to want to do more things, not just to earn your respect, but also because they feel accomplished in what they have done. Ariely does a good job of showing how money is not the best way to align incentives. It’s also about creating a common goal, and a sense of importance.

So how do you keep your head grounded while touting a company that is statistically likely to fail? For me it has come down to 3 simple things. And these things are not very hard to do, but many of us innately forget to pursue them  among the day-to-day things we already pursue. Well as a boostrapped company, anything you can do to increase value without increasing money spent is almost imperative. So make a habit of doing each of these things:

1) Genuinely thank each person for the tasks they have performed for you. Even if they are small tasks, or those that should have been expected of them. That simple acknowledgement goes a long way.

2) Ask each person on your team something each day that has nothing to do with work. This is true for co-founders, and especially true for CEOs. People are more likely to want to work with you, if you show a genuine, human interest in them.

3) Be (or seem) spontaneous. Yes, just like in a relationship. Whether they are your clients, your coworkers, or your investors, people love random acts of kindness. But there’s am additional effect as well – it cause you to think about the other important people on your team. Too often, as a co-founder or CEO, you spend most of your time at the helm of the ship looking outward to the sea. This is important, but can also be disengaging. Your team is on the ship as well, and acknowledging that in itself can be a massively humbling experience. And it has the side effect of increasing not only employee retention (which equals much needed cost efficiency for boostrapped companies), but also company morale.

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