Curiosity is that great untapped leadership competency.

While I don’t see it on any of the 360 Feedback surveys I use with my leadership coaching clients it comes out in just about every debrief session and subsequent coaching session.

At the heart of curiosity is a desire to step outside ones own experience and interrogate what might be going on for others. This isn’t just a nice to have but rather an essential part of moving into a more effective way of leading and away from some of your ‘go to’ habits of thinking.

For many leaders I work with having a critical approach is part of their training, it’s their superpower. For others this critical approach is prompted by their strong desire for high quality output. While this might be useful at times, it’s a pretty hard place to be led from. Consider the impact of being led by someone who finds fault as opposed to someone who is able to mentor and guide others to better outcomes.

By becoming curious you’re able to better understand what’s going on for the other person and how they arrived at the result they have. By asking questions like ‘What was your thinking behind this?’ or could you guide me through your approach or help me understand what happened’, you’re able to uncover the experience for the other person and target your response.

A recent client had a very strong tendency towards avoidance. Rather than engage with his team members on difficult issues he would run the narrative of ‘giving them space to sort things out themselves’ and not wanting to micromanage. Doing something different has felt awkward and incongruent. By adopting a curious mindset he is now able to engage with his team with congruence. Curiosity about the kind of work they love doing, their preferred work style, what brings them joy allows the leader to create stronger relationships with their team.

So next time you find yourself being critical, jumping to conclusions or wanting to distance yourself from your people, adopt a curious mindset and notice what happens…