Building Curiosity for Better Leadership
One word comes up in almost every leadership conversation I have — curiosity. From
celebratory meetings about achieving goals to coaching calls about underperforming teams, it always comes down to curiosity.
But why is curiosity such a universal tool? It boils down to two major benefits: When we embrace curiosity, we abandon our assumptions and stop judging people.
Curiosity Allows You to Abandon Assumptions
Curiosity empowers you to let go of your assumptions. Shaking off that weight of preconceived notions allows you to be a more flexible leader. When you are not carrying assumptions, you become a better listener. You let yourself learn something new and, in turn, gain a deeper understanding of the situation.
Perhaps your team member didn’t miss that deadline because they were irresponsible or disorganized like you assumed. If you can remind yourself you do not know the reason the deadline was missed, you can listen to your employee when they explain to you they prioritized something more critical that you yourself might have missed!
Curiosity Stops Judgement
When you stop assuming you're always right, you're also less likely to judge others' actions. Instead, you develop a deeper level of empathy as you seek understanding.
When you are truly embracing curiosity, you are genuinely caring about others. This simple shift can significantly impact your interactions and relationships. You are showing others you are willing to learn from their perspectives.
We’ve all been in situations where we’ve felt wrongly judged. If you think back on these situations, many of these happened when we either didn’t get our chance to tell our side of the story or you felt that the person on the other side of the table didn’t truly listen. It’s hard to repair a relationship after that. Trust, in both directions, is critically damaged. When we can use curiosity to avoid passing early – and often incorrect – judgments, we can avoid the lengthy and painful process of getting back into a smooth working relationship.
Bringing Curiosity to Your Workplace
So, where can you inject curiosity into your workday? Consider working to build curiosity in these situations:
Discussions about Mistakes: Rather than assigning blame, approach mistakes with curiosity. Ask questions, understand the context, and learn from the experience.
Meetings on Unmet Expectations: These difficult meetings don't have to include a scolding. Seek to uncover the underlying reasons and explore potential solutions.
Feedback Situations: Curiosity can transform these interactions, whether you're in a challenging conversation or talking about an exceptional performance. How can you go deeper into the feedback and ensure your team continues to develop and grow?
The Wrong Way to Try Curiosity
There is a wrong way to deploy curiosity in the workplace. Please do not ask questions to which you've already determined the "correct" answer. That’s not curiosity; that's entrapment.
Leading questions don't promote listening OR learning. While having your own ideas is perfectly acceptable, you must leave room for alternative perspectives. To be curious, you have to approach conversations collaboratively. If it feels like a "test" to anyone you are speaking to, you might be doing it wrong.
Curiosity and Vulnerability
Curiosity seems like a simple trait, not a life-changing workplace initiative. But if that’s the case, why does curiosity often feel so challenging? Curiosity makes us vulnerable, which can make us feel uncomfortable in the best situations. Plus, many leaders feel pressured to have all the answers already. Admitting that there's more to learn and asking questions can feel daunting. Our ego does not like that. Despite all the potential benefits.
If you're interested in cultivating curiosity, opening up to new ideas, and enhancing your leadership, please get in touch. We can explore how curiosity can elevate your leadership style and support your team's growth.