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Handling Criticism Through Humility: Lessons From Recovery to Benefit the Workplace

Humility is a central characteristic of recovery. Being humble helps you keep your recovery centered and strong while simultaneously keeping you teachable. While there are many benefits of humility, putting it into practice in your daily life isn’t always easy, especially at work.

Tackling Workplace Challenges With Humility

The workplace brings unique challenges, which can often be the personalities of those you work with on a day-to-day basis. Although difficult, humility in your leadership and work ethic will carry your career, so it’s important to leverage this recovery practice in your everyday life.

Humility creates the space where great ideas are born, where collegiality is fostered, and where a healthy team can work together. According to Lazslo Bock, the former HR guru with Google, humility creates space for others to contribute – do your part, and step back and let others create alongside you.

But this space is not realized if you are operating in a territorial, defensive manner. Be open to criticism, feedback and the ability to default to your colleagues. You don’t know it all, and you had to recognize that in your recovery – so now, do the same thing at work.

Staying humble, teachable and coachable makes you a better colleague to work with, a better entrepreneur and a much more approachable person.

Here are three ways to make sure you’re creating a safe environment for yourself, your recovery and your peers through humility in the workplace:

  • Use your mentor for accountability
    Practicing humility at work can be challenging at the beginning. Admitting your mistakes, apologizing for errors, and creating room for others to flourish takes patience and practice. As you navigate the principle of workplace and professional humility, it may work best to start with a mentor – a resource you can use to coach and guide you in your professional life. Here, you open the healthy, safe dialogue where your mentor can speak into your life, career, leadership style and more. Be warned: they may call you out when you need it. This is a good thing, and something that will help you shape your leadership and demeanor at work while using recovery practices along the way.
  • Create open dialogue with your boss
    This can be difficult, but for many, your boss is a resource for feedback and growth. If you have an unsafe boss, you may want to find another leader who inspires you, but if you’re able, creating the relationship where feedback, advice and criticism are welcomed can be beneficial to your professional growth. Ask your boss for feedback and be open to receiving it. Good leaders must be able to be great employees first – as you create a safe, open dialogue between you and your boss, you’ll be able to work on humility while learning to emulate this dialogue as a leader in the future. Being led takes humility, and the best leaders know how to do it well.
  • Take feedback seriously
    Whether you receive feedback in passing or in a formal review, take it seriously and allow yourself to grow from it. Admit where your weaknesses are and strive to be better. This takes humility, honesty, and a willingness to mature personally and professionally. Growth will not occur through pride or the inability to conduct an honest assessment of your work. When you receive feedback, it may be difficult to process. Again, leverage your mentor, and even bring in your sponsor or recovery coach when you need extra recovery support. Receiving negative feedback isn’t the end – it’s an opportunity for humility and growth that will not only help you be better in the workplace, but it will help you stretch your recovery muscles, making you stronger in all parts of life.

Be an Example and an Inspiration

By leveraging these three principles in the workplace, you can more effectively strive after humility – a principle of recovery that will help you stay grounded and focused in all aspects of life and sobriety. In addition to the benefits in your personal life, humble leaders are inspiring leaders – so be one of them. Be an example and an inspiration for your peers and fellow leaders – and create the space where others have the ability to do their best work alongside you, and even ahead of you.

Said best by Ernest Hemingway, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”  Strive to be better than your former self, day after day, both in your life and at work. By leveraging the principles of humility in your recovery and the workplace, you will stretch yourself and grow into the leader that your recovery has equipped you to be.


Images Courtesy of iStock

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