Curiosity: How Acting Like a 5-Year Old Can Make You a Better Leader

Nobody does Curiosity better than 5-year olds. And Curiosity is one of the five skills that make every leader better (Compassion, Curiosity, Communication, Vision, and Resilience).

Five-year old kids just want to know stuff. They’re interested and open; they have no idea how fish breathe in the water, or why you’re wearing a plaid shirt, or what that person’s favorite song is, or when the sun will set, and they’re not invested in the answer. They just want to know. So they can add that factoid to the other things they know, which helps them build their world view.

As a leader, when you’re curious, you’re open to new ideas, ways of doing things, and feedback, in general. Curiosity is wanting to know more, without being tied to a specific outcome or answer. It’s not judgy, and it’s not about testing people or putting them on the defensive.

Curiosity also leaves space for others to be knowledgeable experts and to contribute to the conversation. What would it be like if you didn’t have to know everything as a leader?

If you don’t have to know everything, then others have to know stuff. And if you don’t have to know everything, there’s room for other perspectives, which is how innovation happens.

Acting like a 5-year old can make you a better leader! Curious? You should be! Click To Tweet

If you’re lucky enough to receive 360 feedback that includes information from the people you manage, your sense of curiosity can help you navigate and appreciate what your team is telling you.

Contrast two managers receiving the same feedback from their teams: one who is open and curious, and the other who is not. The “not curious” manager hears the feedback, and immediately formulates a defensive response (and excuses) as to why the employees said what they did.

The “is curious” manager looks at the feedback as important information, and if a piece of that feedback isn’t consistent with what they believe, they ask more questions of the team to understand more about it.

Guess who gets information they can act on? And guess whose team feels heard and valued, and therefore performs better in the long run? Yes, it’s the leader who’s curious!

When you’re open to all possibilities instead of being committed to specific answers or outcomes, surprising results can happen. Your team, who’s likely working closer to the customer than you are, will have insights and information that you won’t have. The best and strongest solutions come when customer insights and information are incorporated into the team’s work.

Ask questions when you don’t know the answers. When you have experts on your team who know more than you do about a topic, they’ll be able to tell if you’re faking knowledge, and it won’t impress them. It will opposite-of-impress them.

But when you give an expert the opportunity to share their knowledge, two things happen: 1) you learn something, and 2) the expert gets an opportunity to add value.

What about bad news? It’s input. And if your team knows that you’re seeking to understand rather than looking to place blame, they’ll share the bad news with you. And then you can do something about it!

When was the last time you used Curiosity as a leader? Tell us in the comments below (because we’re, you know, curious)!

 

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