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  • Writer's pictureHamish Mackenzie

Humility kills (careers).

You're good. Maybe even great. So why don't more people know it?

I've been fortunate enough to meet quite a few globally successful business people over the years. Most of them were interesting, funny, insightful and inspiring. One thing none of them were, is humble.

This contradicts the recent trend suggesting that humility is an essential asset in today’s boardrooms. The bromide seems to be that humility is the antidote to capitalism’s many failings

Whether or not you believe that, the harsh reality for most of us is that too much humility is a career killer. In fact, many executives could benefit from supercharging the way they talk about themselves, rather than dialling it back.

I’m not talking about adopting a fake persona, relentless bragging, or chasing fame so hard even an X-factor contestant would be embarrassed for you. I am suggesting that you establish a consistent, high profile presence in the places that matter. Those places will be different for everyone, but you have to be there, proactively demonstrating your unique value. Otherwise, you will be nowhere.

If you struggle with self-promotion, here are some reasons that adopting a ‘humble’, under the radar persona makes no sense.

It kills opportunity: If you don’t have a high-profile presence in your company, your industry and your community, you are missing out on multiple opportunities for career progression every day. Moreover, this loss of opportunity is potentially far more damaging than the odd negative reaction that a more assertive image might generate.

It’s disingenuous: If you’re successful, you already know that you have a lot of value to offer, or you wouldn’t be where you are. Not making that value available to others proactively is damaging to them, as well as yourself.

It’s a turn-off: Humility won’t get you invited to the events or shortlisted for the positions that will elevate your career. Do you have to give a 5-minute monologue about your achievements every time you meet someone new? Of course not. But you had better be prepared to demonstrate your extraordinary value when it’s your turn to speak. Otherwise it’s going to be a pretty short conversation.

It makes you invisible: It’s simple really. Nobody who takes their career seriously can afford to be invisible any more. Anybody at VP level or above should have their own website, ideally in the format, and be a regular presence on social media, at industry events, in key magazines or on leading websites.

Of course, you might be thinking that you are doing well enough without all that. My question is this: How much better would you be doing if you made the effort?

Your task for this week:

If you’re resistant to the idea of a less humble, louder approach to promoting yourself, take 20 minutes to write down a) why you think that is, and b) what the pros and cons of changing your attitude could be.

Then send your notes to me. I’ll be happy to help you make sense of them and provide some suggestions about the way forward.

Copyright, Hamish Mackenzie 2019


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