- 16th April 2018
- Posted by: Manolis
Curiosity is a desire to learn and a desire to know.
Sir Ken Robinson put it best in an interview alongside mystic Sadhguru, saying, ”To call kids ‘dropouts,’ it sounds like they failed the system. It is more accurate to say the system has failed them. I don’t know any kid who doesn’t want to learn.”
I had the benefit of experiencing life across multiple continents and cultures that required me to engage my inner curiosity to survive and succeed. My childhood curiosity had lent itself to great learnings and knowledge that helped me not only survive, but create dreams, goals, and passions to live the life I wanted. When I started my professional career, this curiosity did not diminish. Curiosity, for me, became a means of expanding knowledge, building relationships, seeking alliances, and gaining a deeper understanding of myself and a way to succeed across different cultures.
Leaders have the responsibility to create a system where continuous learning and knowledge sharing happen for themselves and the culture. Staying curious allows leaders to enhance their leadership game, overcome roadblocks, and create a culture that does the same for others. Engaging your natural curiosity means being truly open to learning and gaining valuable knowledge. I have seen that leaders can easily fall victim to the culture, become complacent, and find themselves struggling to create positive change. To overcome this, let’s explore how you can employ curiosity to elevate for your leadership game.
Build a positive report in a short time.
Let’s say you are just transitioning into a new project or role. One natural approach might be to start collecting the facts and start running things based on your experience. But you may quickly see more and more roadblocks as you apply what you consider a best practice. An alternate approach is to be naturally curious and learn what it means to be successful in your role.
Many of us have heard leaders in new situations say, “I’m new here, so can you help me understand this.” Additionally, “This might be a stupid question, but…,” or even, “In my previous experience, this is what works.” These types of statements can lead others to draw negative conclusions about you as a leader, as you begin to create labels and boundaries for yourself. Instead, be open and curious about what success looks like from the perspective of the stakeholders, the sponsors and team members. Learn what success looks like in the context of the culture. Here are some open-ended curiosity questions that can get you off the right start during transitions:
1. (Addressing the team): What are some of the most immediate roadblocks you have to overcome? What needs to happen now to make your work more efficient?
2. (With your manager): In this culture, what are the most important steps I can take to be a successful leader?
3. (With a stakeholder): How would you know that we are achieving success in this endeavor? What has been your experience so far?
4. (Addressing your peers): What is your experience in being a successful leader? What did you do that worked well? What advice could you offer that can help me in my role?
During transitions, curiosity will help you develop and establish a positive report in a short time.
Take actions that are meaningful.
Over time, your transition period comes to a comfortable place. You know the people, the processes, the politics and the culture. You start to live in the comfort zone. This comfort can very quickly get the best of you. Transforming means going beyond what you know and taking actions that help create your desired result. Here are some transformational curiosity questions you may ask yourself:
1. What challenges am I facing now? What am I fearing? What can I do about it?
2. What alliances can I build to expand my current leadership capability? How will do I do that?
3. What are some immediate actions I can take to improve the team’s ability? How will I hold them accountable? How will I hold myself accountable?
4. What is my level of engagement with my sponsors, stakeholders and team members? What can I do to create and build more impactful relationships?
Transforming will help you create the actions that push you outside of your comfort zone and allow you to be open to new possibilities.
Discover what is most impactful.
While transforming enables you to take steps to create the change you wish to see, it is very temporary. Those actions are applicable as long as they work. During transcendence, you reflect and gain a deeper understanding of your thoughts and action as a leader. Engage your curiosity to think about your experience and what you will need to do next. Ask yourself:
1. How have I transformed my leadership game? How has this impacted my teams and stakeholders? What do I need to do more of and less of?
2. In what ways has culture seen progress? How did I contribute to that, and what opportunities did I miss?
3. How can I continue to grow as a leader on making a significant impact on the culture? What is important to me now that wasn’t before?
4. In what ways am I getting feedback? What strategic alliances do I need to establish to progress?
Through reflection, you begin to elevate your leadership ability in a way that creates impactful change.
Being curious will create new possibilities for you as a leader, and produce a system where others do the same for themselves and the culture. We see that it starts with becoming aware of yourself and the culture you lead in, then taking action in transforming yourself to shift the culture in a positive direction, and finally engaging in the reflection that allows you to create impactful changes. Asking impactful, curious questions throughout this cycle will create the space you need to overcome your internal and external roadblocks as a leader. If you are open to learning, why not do it in a way that comes naturally to you? Be curious.