Since I started working for PwC in 2000, I’ve been working globally, living locally. Which in 2000, to be clear, was not the norm! But as we think about the future world of work, this is going to be a model the next generation will be living with as a daily reality. Innovation and excellence will not be restricted by borders or time zones, and technology will provide a platform that allows everyone to play on a global stage.
But are we ready for this? Is the next generation culturally able to embrace the global marketplace? Do our people have the confidence to realise that they have every right to be there? Do they know that they are as good as everybody else?
The reason I ask these questions is because in Northern Ireland, we are brought up to “hide our lights”, “not get too big for our boots” and definitely not to “blow our own trumpet”. Will this humility mindset limit the impact and contribution of our brightest and best in a global economy?
So I’m going to share a personal story about the confidence/humility see-saw.
I’m a 100% signed up citizen of the Northern Ireland humility culture! As a wee girl from the country who had 12 people in her primary school class, passing my 11 plus was a milestone for me. The transition to grammar school was one of fear and trepidation - I mean, it’s OK to be one of the brightest people in a class of 12, but realistically, I was probably going to be doing well to be middle to bottom of the class in grammar school. And then when I got to university, the bar was going to be raised again…
That humility mindset of thinking that everyone would be smarter and more capable than me could have gone one of two ways. I could have accepted that that was the reality, and allowed that to work its way through as I drifted to being middle to bottom; or I could have tapped into the hard working, competitive part of me that just got on with things and surprised myself at the outcome.
But there was a bit more to it than that. Other people believed in me - teachers, lecturers - and that belief gave me confidence.
My career journey has followed a very similar story to the one I described in terms of my journey through education. Within weeks of joining PwC, I was flying solo to Oslo and Prague, interviewing very senior people in global organisations to allow me to design a major piece of thought leadership research for our global firm. Other people believed in me - partner, directors - and that belief gave me confidence.
And I continue to feed off people’s belief in me, because while I may display confidence in my interactions, there is always a part of me that questions if I really have a right to be here. The difference is that I am now embracing that - because someone finally put a label on it - humility.
Much has been written about the confidence/humility see-saw. And there is definitely a balance to be had. We should be confident that we’re as good (if not better) than everyone else. We should sit up, share our views, take our seat at the table, seize opportunities and know we have a right to be there. Say yes!
But the next generation of global citizens should also view humility as something to embrace. No one person can "do it all" or “know it all”. We need different kind of leaders: those who are curious, inclusive, creative, team players, willing to learn and able to build trust.
And in my humble opinion, they are the people who will confidently succeed.