A few days ago I introduced two senior executives. These two individuals will be working together on a strategic initiative and had great motivation to get to know each other and establish a strong working relationship.
Witnessing the introduction was fascinating.
One of the leaders did what you might expect. He shook hands, introduced himself and gave a bit of background on his experiences. He dove into a bit about his perspective on the upcoming initiative and shared some qualifications as to why his background and expertise made these perspectives worthwhile. He also found some subtle ways to ‘drop in’ some relevant statistics to build credibility and communicate that he has a track record of success.
All of this was done in an incredibly friendly and professional manner.
The second leader took a bit of a different tact. She asked questions. She sought clarity about some of the statements made by the first leader. She sought to understand the reasons why he held certain opinions. She asked whether in his opinion certain data points she was aware of might be relevant to the upcoming initiative.
To the casual outside observer, it may appear as though the first leader was more seasoned, had a better resume, and significant qualifications that gave him the confidence to speak up. One might assume that the second leader was timid and unprepared.
The reality is quite different. The first leader, while still quite successful, has struggled of late to deliver results. While he does have an impressive resume, those who know the details understand that some of the numbers he uses to boost his image are filtered through a lens in order to put him in a good light.
The second leader is an absolute rock star. You’d never know it, but, she has basically engineered, single-handedly, a way to fly to the moon and back on a bath mat (exaggeration to make a point and protect the innocent). She is a proven performer who leads teams successfully, time after time, and continually gives them the credit. When something collapses, she takes the fall.
This introductory conversation was a microcosm of their different styles. The first leader is all about himself, his accomplishments, and his perspective. While a strong individual performer, he fails to do anything greater than himself because, well, it’s all about himself. People tend to like him, but they are not always aligned with him. While his introduction was absolutely professional and friendly, it was all about positioning.
The second leader is all about others. She seeks to understand. She wants outside perspectives and wants to understand the reasons behind them. She builds strong teams by investing in others and making them feel like valued members of a team. She demonstrates her expertise by asking insightful questions and connecting the dots between data points.
The first leader has a strong dose of confidence. The second, a healthy dose of humble confidence.
Do you seek to establish credibility through a litany about yourself? Or do you build rapport by showing interest in others’ ideas, asking intelligent questions, and helping to connect the dots? If you begin to introduce yourself with a little bit of humble confidence you may find that you begin to act with a bit more of it as well.