About 10 years ago I was leading the training and development function for a multi billion dollar construction materials company. During that time I created a leadership development program that had tremendous impact on the organizations results and changed the lives of many.
With my success came a ton of praise and a lot of attention.While others my age were cutting their teeth on stretch assignments I was running a highly effective department. While my peers were vying for the attention of our CEO, I was sipping the best of Napa Valley with him in first class. It’s safe to say I had lost total perspective. I was 29 years old and arrogant.
My humbling experience struck like a lightning bolt and felt like a punch to the gut. It was during the delivery of my annual leadership program that I had several leaders pull me aside to tell me that they thought I was arrogant and hypocritical. They said they were concerned about the quality of their experience and requested I consider changing some of my behaviors. I was mortified. I ended up breaking down in tears (first and only time in my career) in front of the entire leadership group. They sat starring dumbfounded and completely uncomfortable while I sorted through sobs.
A few weeks later I was turned down for a global promotion I was the only one in the running for. It goes without saying, these are not my most proud moments and its vulnerable to share them with you now. But this was the experience that broke me and got my attention. This was my Humbling Experience.
Arrogance is the birthplace of The Humbling Experience.
I define arrogance as the lack of appreciation for the strengths and contributions of others. I define the Humbling Experience as the opportunity to practice humility.
When we are arrogant, The Humbling Experience will find us. It’s as if the God of our leadership evolution requires us to face the ugliness in us and challenges it to a duel.
And as you know the good guy always wins so it’s in this experience that we have the opportunity to grow, mature and find a better version of ourselves. If we don’t we are doomed to repeat the lesson.
It use to be that when I looked back on my humbling experience I would do it with a wince and a whimper. But with time I can face it front and center. I can share it with thousands reading this now. It has no power over me but instead it empowers me. It reminds me that I’m human and therefore imperfect. I’m zealous and sometimes selfish but I am more than that too. I’m a work in progress and I’m better today than I was yesterday. I have my humbling experience to thank for that.
As you face your next humbling experience whether it’s the loss of a job, a demotion or simply a dispute with someone you respect, keep in mind this experience could be more than humiliation… it could be a pathway to growth.