A Lesson in Humility

By Jane Atkinson

I haven’t been able to talk publicly about politics, even though it’s one of my favorite subjects, for several years now because America is so divided. I live in Canada, so you might think I’m not affected by American politics, but over 50% of my business comes from the US so I care.

I care very deeply.

This past month George H. W. Bush passed away joining his wife Barbara who had passed just eight months earlier, and the tributes poured in. As I was watching the many interviews about his life and who he was as a person, one character trait kept coming up again and again.

Humility.

There were moments over the course of George H. W. Bush’s very short, one term, Presidency that he scored some major wins. But he wasn’t one to take a victory lap. When a military exercise went well he said, “That’s a celebration for the troops who fought so hard”. If his diplomatic negotiations went well, like it did when the Berlin Wall fell, he said, “This is Germany’s time to celebrate, this isn’t about us”.

Humility.

Now you might think that I’m taking pot shots at the current commander and chief, but while every President has his controversies and critiques, this post isn’t about politics. It’s about you, as speakers, and how this lesson affects us all.

We, as the people who are standing center stage, need to remember that it’s not about us, it’s about them – our audiences. It’s about our clients’ needs and we are there to serve.

If someone who has the job of “leader of the free world” can remember to keep his ego in check, then I think we can all take a page from the Book of Bush.

One of the people that was invited by the family to participate in funeral services for Mr. Bush was the person who got the home ready for their arrival in Kennebunkport every summer. He was an electrician, a caretaker and George Bush took an interest in his life. In fact, he was interested in everyone who worked for them in their personal residences and in the White House.

What can we as speakers be doing to show this same type of gratitude towards those who serve us?

Perhaps it’s the smallest thing like learning the a/v person’s name or acknowledging from the stage that they’ve been there since 6am for rehearsals. I know many of you do this so very well; continue to keep it top of mind and I need to do that, too. I know I need to do a better job of recognizing my team who works so hard, or the meeting coordinators who bring me in to speak. For some of you it comes so naturally. Kudos to you.

I hope you can put your politics aside and recognize that President George H. W. Bush was a man who we can all learn from.

And that humility both on and off the platform is something that we can all strive for in our daily business and personal lives.