It's time to rethink the phrase "curiosity killed the cat," if you want to advance in your career, instill trust and respect in your employees, support breakthroughs in innovation in your organization and improve productivity.
For years, I have wondered if curiosity is a good thing or a bad thing. All my life, I have had a history of asking a lot of questions. Along the way, I haven’t necessarily seen others doing the same, at least not to the same degree.
Yet, one of the leadership skills that has been taught for decades and touted as key to success is the skill of asking questions. Decades of data support the importance of leaders being other-centered and willing to listen and learn from others, in other words, being curious.
One of the seven habits from the classic Stephen Covey book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” was “Seek First to Understand, then be Understood.” That speaks to curiosity!
Curiosity In The Workplace
In a Harvard Business Review article from August 2018, Francesca Gino defines curiosity as “the impulse to seek information and experiences and explore novel possibilities.”
In that same issue, HBR reported a strong correlation between employee curiosity and competency. Their research* found that executives with high levels of curiosity were most likely to advance to a C-suite position.
Nonetheless, A survey conducted of more than 3,000 employees from a wide range of firms and industries as part of this article, found that only 24% feel curious in their jobs on a regular basis and 70% said they face barriers to asking more questions at work.
Benefits of Curiosity
- Triggers creativity and innovation
- Allows for open communication and stronger decision making
- Helps build feelings of trust and inspiration from employees toward leaders
- Increased engagement and productivity
Unfortunately, especially when under pressure, leaders tend to respond to situations with intolerance and judgment rather than using curiosity. They miss out on curiosity's power to build relationships and drive business results.
So Why Are Leaders Resistant to Curiosity?
- They are too busy to be curious and support curiosity in others
- Leaders view curiosity as inefficient and time-consuming
- They often believe they need to provide answers rather than ask questions
- Many place too much emphasis on their own personal opinions
- We are all inherently self-centered; it is human nature
Consider These Simple Reminders to Demonstrate Curiosity Through Questions
Ask these types of questions:
- Open-ended questions to gain more information:
"What can you tell me about this?"
- Follow-up questions to learn more:
“Tell me more,” or “Can you give me some examples?”
- Feedback questions:
“What can I do to be a more effective leader to you?”
- Questions to show interest in others:
“Can I get your opinion about something?” or “How is your family doing?”
- Questions beyond those that are designed to elicit only one right answer:
“What two or three ideas come to mind for you?”
- Questions to encourage teams to think beyond the status quo and drive creativity:
“If we had no limitations related to money or time, what could we do?”
*Fernandez-Araoz, Claudio, et al. "From Curious To Competent." Harvard Business Review, Sept. 2018, p. 61.
At Living As A Leader, we offer a Leadership Development Series designed to produce leaders that can positively shape the cultural environment, reduce turnover and achieve crucial business initiatives. We do this by providing training, coaching and consulting with a focus on pragmatic communication tools for leaders at all levels of your organization.
For more information, contact Steph Kotlarek at firstname.lastname@example.org