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Fridays from the Frontline: MIT Sloan MBA Student, Veteran Discusses Humility and Success

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Humility by itself is not actionable; rather, it is the crucial catalyst for effective teamwork. You can’t put a finger on humility alone, but I’ve found that the most effective teams foster the following hallmarks of humility:

Spend more time listening than talking. Every person may hold a different piece of an answer, but it will never come to full fruition if it remains unspoken. Provide each other time to speak and share ideas. I’ve found that often the best ideas come from developing and building upon the most creative and seemingly impractical ideas of others. Say “Yes, and…,” rather than “No.” Share your thoughts, even if you think they’re stupid, too “out of left field” or otherwise irrelevant. It may spur the conversation just enough to kick off a new, great idea. With that said, the best teams will also recognize when saying “No” is important to keep a deadline or otherwise redirect a distracted line of thinking. This, however, should not be taken lightly and should be used more to redirect rather than eliminate a stream of consciousness.

Speak with passion, but temper aggression. Everyone will have opinions—this is a good thing. Learning to accept that others may feel or think differently and maintaining a level head during that conversation will lead to a productive outcome; introducing unnecessary emotion will steer team members toward defensive, rather than productive, conversation.

Be critical of one another. You come to Sloan to learn and to become a “better you,” bolstered by some of the most intelligent, accomplished young people on the planet. The better that team is, the better you can become. Help each other become more enlightened, critical thinking individuals by challenging one another. Offer honest and candid feedback, and, on the flip side, be open to criticism.

Everybody has a story to tell. There is no such thing as a weak link, either in the classroom or beyond. Listen with an open mind; what you learn about others and yourself may surprise you.

Trust that your teammates’ hearts are in the right place. If you trust one another’s intentions, the occasional angry flare up, missed meeting or misunderstood feedback will be less of an issue and more of a learning point for yourself and the group.

Laugh. Have fun and enjoy this experience. This is an incredible place; embrace the opportunities, optimism and empowerment it provides.

I shared these insights with my first-year classmates and hope that they will find them useful. As I continue to reflect upon these values, I’ve realized that these points detail some of my greatest takeaways from Sloan. I can apply these to any situation in business or my community to the betterment of myself and the collective organization. While still at Sloan, this set of principles enables Sloanies to be successful drivers of global impact. Armed with a fresh sense of what it means to be a Sloanie, I look forward even more to my second year and exploring what the future holds with a greater sense of purpose and humility.