Remember Curious George from the childhood book? Always curious and getting himself into one adventure after another because of his intense curiosity. Curious George took curiosity to an extreme. Yet, he inspires me to think about how curiosity is a necessary and often underrated leadership quality.
How often does it happen that we jump in to solve a problem?
At work and at home, experienced leaders often want to simply “fix” what needs work so we can move on to the next thing. We give what or who is in front of us a few moments in time. While doing this our engaged brains search for how this problem is similar or different to other problems that we solved in the past. When it comes up with a solution, it is usually based on what worked (or avoiding what didn’t work) before.
This approach is efficient. However it is often ineffective because the other individual isn’t learning. As bosses, teammates, and parents, running to rescue others from thinking through their options isn’t effective leadership. I know because I have done it.
High-performing motivated achievers and leaders do it by default. We aren’t trying to jump in. It just happens. It happens because our habits and reactive patterns take over.
There is another way, and it will yield different outcomes.
A client this week was troubled by an employee who was under-performing. She had spoken to the individual on a number of occasions, directing and informing of what needed to happen. She told me that she often “got a blank stare.”
Invite curiosity into your next conversation
I asked her to invite curiosity into her next conversation with this employee. I asked her to simply ask “how can I help you?” I asked her to help the employee go to the root by formulating his frustration into a clear and concise question. Once a problem is formulated as a question, the answer is often apparent.
She reported back that “I have been using our conversation last week in some of my training of new sales reps and it has been helping! I had a moment last week where I was going through rates with one of the new folks and kept asking questions to get to the root of whether or not they had everything they needed to move forward. By asking a different question that would discover different information, I ended up being able to better understand what I needed to do & explain to get the rep where they needed to be in that instance. Thank you for all of your help!”
What took place was so simple, but not easy to implement. We become attached to being knowledgeable people who help others by solving problems.
Sometimes, getting out of the way and simply asking questions in curiosity IS solving the problem.
It is being solved differently than the ways you may have done so previously.
Leaders who are passionately curious approach others with more questions than answers.
Practice doing so in the week ahead. Your adventures may not make it into a book, but your impact on others will be noteworthy.