Curiosity did not kill the cat – the importance of embedding curiosity in your team and in yourself

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A white cat with brown patches
Recently, we welcomed Belle, a 6-month-old kitten, to the family.

We brought her home and let her explore….and, wow, did she explore! It is fascinating to see her interest in anything and everything. To see her playing with a shell or a discarded chocolate bar wrapper is captivating. Exploring, learning and trying new things out without the barrier of fear or retribution – unless she is picking at the carpet!

I had forgotten what it was like to have a kitten (or indeed a toddler). Having pets and young children reminds me of the importance of curiosity. Pets and children are naturally curious. My children ask me questions about things that I just take for granted and accept. They are helping me to learn, re-learn forgotten ‘stuff’ and even unlearn some unhelpful habits and behaviours! Through doing this, they are building my curiosity even more.

Curiosity can propel you to try new things and different approaches. It helps you to learn – whether it be from failure or  success – and grow. It encourages you to question and challenge and can prevent you from accepting the status quo. Being curious moves you forward, building creativity and problem-solving skills- ‘what got you here won’t get you there’ (Marshall Goldsmith). With curiosity, comes exploration, inquisitiveness, and openness to something new or different, all of which can help you succeed.

So, how do you encourage and develop curiosity in yourself and your team?

  1. Create a psychological safe work environment, so people are comfortable asking questions, trying new approaches, and sharing feedback. For tips on developing a psychologically safe environment, see my blog Is silence always golden? Creating a psychologically safe environment.
  2. Encourage yourself and your team to step out of your comfort zone and do something new or different. Encourage individual and team reflection to determine lessons learnt; reflection helps learning and development. Again, for tips on reflecting, see my blog Reflecting on Self-Reflection.
  3. Role model curiosity – using a coaching approach with your team can really help you with this. Key coaching skills include:
    1. being present and really listening to your team members – on an individual and team level.
    2. giving them your time and focus, as well as giving them time to learn, reflect, and develop.
    3. asking questions and not assuming. Asking open questions helps elicit information, develop thinking, and trigger ideas. It helps people become ‘unstuck’.
    4. not interrupting and using silence to encourage deeper thinking.
    5. trusting your team to try their own approaches to meet challenges and goals, rather than directing or telling them.
  4. Role model a life-long learning approach. Share your learning with your team and make development a priority. Learning new skills or knowledge inevitably builds curiosity. It can be infectious – if your team sees you asking questions, making discoveries, and learning (from the good and the bad), they may likely follow.

As a leader, you have a key role in embedding curiosity, so allow yourself not to know all the answers and share this with your team; encourage questioning and reflection to gain different perspectives; ensure people are properly listened to, with no interruptions – and help people to try different things out in a safe, blame-free environment.

Engendering curiosity can be a powerful vehicle to success. Without curiosity, we run the risk of stagnation, mediocrity and disengagement.

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Is silence always golden? Creating a psychologically safe environment

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