Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

Embracing Ugly Babies

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By LaMesha Craft
September 11, 2023

There is a great article published by Indeed about the benefits of showing humility at work. The article provides six steps for showing humility and positively contributing to the company culture.

However, I find that to properly internalize the importance of intellectual humility, it is important to acknowledge the human/emotional aspect of it.

Intellectual Humility

Intellectual humility is the act of recognizing and owning our intellectual limitations and accepting that we can be wrong. As noted in the Foundation for Critical Thinking, intellectual humility includes having a sensitivity to circumstances in which one’s self-centeredness, inherent bias and limited point of view can prohibit the realization of one’s limitations.

I think the application of humility/intellectual humility may vary in its degree of difficulty depending on the person, their position, their task and the known or suspected impact of the task. In that same vein, one’s inherent bias (towards their knowledge, skills, ability or product) may be prominent, thus preventing the application of the six steps in the article.  

I enjoy the process of building or redesigning things to improve efficiency, update systems and processes or to simply create that which is needed. When working on a product, I will spend a great amount of time and attention on the details. I am critical of my work and I attempt to account for multiple perspectives. So naturally, by the time I have completed my well-developed draft it should be able to stand up to a thorough review … right?

Although it happened over 20 years ago, I remember a valuable lesson about intellectual humility. After working on it for two weeks, I completed a draft information paper. Prior to publication, it had to be reviewed by the supervisor. I was very proud of myself and imagined that my supervisor would read my draft and wonder to themselves, “Wow, where has she been this whole time!?”

After two days, I received my draft with supervisor comments. I opened it, and it was like a splash of ice-cold water on my face. As I read each comment, I grew less and less confident about my knowledge, skills and abilities. In fact, I questioned my life choices. To make matters worse, there were so many track changes that it was barely recognizable. By the time I reached the last comment, I felt defeated …was there anything in my draft that wasn’t changed? Obviously, it was a beautiful creation (to me), but my supervisor’s comments indicated that my draft lacked several key points and as written, it created more questions than answers.

I had to sit with what I considered “rejection” for a couple of days. I spent more time those two days silently countering some comments and edits with my rationale for its creation. In my mind I was just told that my beautiful piece of work (my baby) was ugly.

Embrace Your Ugly Baby

My mentor saw the sense of defeat on my face, and she shared some invaluable perspective about intellectual humility. Her guidance helped me develop a method of “embracing my ugly baby” that has enabled me to brainstorm, collaborate and hold space for various ideas (some of which counter my own).

  1. Do not become attached to your draft.
  2. Let go of the negative connotation associated with “feedback;” it is not negative or positive … it just is.
  3. Sometimes your best is just a good start, and that’s okay.
  4. It’s better that the internal review identifies errors or opportunities to provide clarity before the product goes out the door, the “great idea” is shared or the plan is finalized. Sometimes even the best draft can be overcome by events. Depending on your career field, what was correct and applicable today could be incorrect and obsolete tomorrow.
  5. It is unlikely that the time you spent on the draft is completely wasted, surely you learned something along the way.
  6. You should assume that your baby is always (a little) ugly and anticipate some modifications.

Food for Thought on Feedback

As a peer, colleague, leader or manager, you may have the opportunity to provide feedback on a product, process or plan. I encourage you to do so with the mindset that nine times out of ten, the author developed their draft with a sense of purpose and pride. Feedback should be comprehensive. It’s equally important to highlight components that were well-developed. The baby may be ugly (generally speaking), but perhaps it has some nice features worth noting.

Author: LaMesha “MeMe” Craft, holds a doctorate in public policy and administration. Her research interests include adult learning, leadership and management, the impacts of disruptive technology, alternative futures, and postnormal times. She may be reached at [email protected] or @DrLCraft20

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *