Hey there, you’re listening to They Don’t Teach This in Business School, a podcast about lessons learned on the business owner journey that only experience can teach. I’m Julie Bee, and I’m really glad you’re here today with me.
There’s an artform all business owners eventually learn that serves them well. It’s the art of balancing confidence with humility. One of my core values used to be humility, but it no longer is. Confidence and courage have taken its place. That does not mean I no longer have humility, though. I think being able to be humble is a crucial skill business owners need to be successful. It actually takes a lot of courage and confidence to display humility, especially when we’re supposed to be the experts.
When I first started out in business, I would pretend I had all the answers, even if I didn’t. That was neither confidence nor courage – that was arrogance. It bit me in the behind enough times for me to learn the subtle art of being able to say, “I don’t know,” but to have the confidence in myself, and also earn the confidence of others, that I would find the answer.
That is the balance leaders and business owners need to have in their career. There are still things to this day that I don’t know about many things people would expect me to know. But I have the confidence AND the humility to say, “I don’t know, but I do have a few options I can try.”
You and I, we’ve been on this business ownership journey for a while. You’ve probably already made this mistake and learned from it, just like I have. So the next step is to make sure the other people in your organization – those who are leaders and managers – also master this skill. Talk to them about it. Tell them it’s ok to say, “I don’t know but I will try to figure it out,” or, “I’m really not sure if we can do that; I need to check a few things first.”
There is no shame in saying this – and that is something that you, as a leader, can teach your other leaders. Even when faced with a customer or client who says, “Well, this other company said it could be done,” it’s still ok to say, “I hear that, but I’m not sure, and I don’t want to over promise and under deliver to you.” THAT will earn more respect, trust, and business than competing with what another company said.
In some of my interviews on this show, emotional intelligence, empathy, and authenticity have come up quite a bit. This art of balancing confidence and humility falls into that emotional intelligence category. All of it falls under the umbrella of self-leadership.
Most of those stories come from a place where the business owner learned this lesson the hard way. Don’t get me wrong – I still, on occasion, over promise because I’m over-confident. But as soon as I recognize I’ve done it, I go back to the person and tell them, “I was wrong, and I apologize. We can’t actually do that, but here are a few possible workarounds that get us closer to your goal.” If you can’t catch that overconfidence on the front-end, correct it with humility as soon as possible.
As business owners, we learn that, over time, people respect us more when we say, “I don’t know, but I’ll do what I can to figure it out.” There’s a real power in that. In my experience, that has made clients like and trust me MORE than giving them a 100%, “I can fix this,” answer – even if I do, indeed, fix the issue. In fact, these days – even if I’m 99% sure I can do what the client is asking me to do, I usually lead with, “I’m not sure, but I have a few things to try.”
It takes A LOT of confidence to be humble. It takes a lot of humility to be confident without being arrogant. Doing both at the same time takes awareness, practice, and authentic self-leadership.
I’m Julie Bee, and they don’t teach THIS in business school.