Leading change with curiosity in uncertain times

Change is one of the constants in life, and with change often comes uncertainty, fear and overwhelm. Never before have we been faced with so much uncertainty in our lives. With never-ending lockdowns, the challenges that come with remote and hybrid work, work-life balance, homeschooling and trying to motivate and navigate ourselves and teams through […]

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Change is one of the constants in life, and with change often comes uncertainty, fear and overwhelm.

Never before have we been faced with so much uncertainty in our lives. With never-ending lockdowns, the challenges that come with remote and hybrid work, work-life balance, homeschooling and trying to motivate and navigate ourselves and teams through the fog, it can be exhausting and overwhelming.

In this stop-start-stop-start life, we need to adapt, and I reckon to lead an organisation and create a culture open to change, innovation and creativity, curiosity is key. The future of leadership requires us now, more than ever, to adapt, innovate and collaborate, and I reckon curiosity deserves some attention.

Curiosity is a motivating desire for more information. It’s the engine that drives learning, innovation and achievement. This helps us grow and can help us explore challenging situations and changes with a growth mindset.

Dr Daniel Berlyne was a pioneer in curiosity research in the ’60s. His work in experimental and exploratory psychology has served as the foundational research for many scientists who have followed. He stated that curiosity is innate to our being, not unlike food and water.

He also concluded that three key sources instigate it:

novelty – that which is new or unknown to us
ambiguity – that which is confusing to us
complexity – partially known to us and where we seek to know more

All these sources of curiosity surround us – it’s up to us to raise our emotional intelligence, be aware of these, and decide what to do next.

5 keys to curiosity

1. Open your mind

Opening your mind takes discipline, and the more open you are, the more likely you will be to receive new information and ideas that can help you continue to be curious.

Avoid closing yourself or others off and stretch out of your safe zone – anything outside your comfort zone is growth. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and stay present when listening. I ask myself, ‘What can I learn from this person?’ – this opens up my mind to receive and not discount the ideas or opinions of others.

2. Ask questions

Asking questions of yourself, others, and situations help you become a more effective communicator and build stronger relationships and leadership capabilities.

Asking questions with intention is a great way to understand, seek information and explore your curiosity in the process.
Asking open questions is key. One tip to asking open questions is to add ‘tell me about’ to the start of your questions – this will turn them into an open question.

When we ask curious, open questions, we need to be open to not knowing the answer and not assume or judge. Our intention should be to focus on learning and understanding more.

Only ask one question at a time and base your next question on the response you receive.

3. Flipping statements into questions

When we think about something, we articulate it in our minds as either a statement or a question. For example, flipping a statement such as ‘What that team did was great’ to ‘I wonder how that team achieved that?’ will change your energy and provoke questioning and conversations. It changes a one-dimensional thought to a two-dimensional question. Take the time to observe the statements you think or write, such as in an email, and flip these into questions.

4.  Listen and be present

Research found that only 2% of leaders have ever received any training on how to listen, and most people struggle to listen and not just ‘hear’.

We aren’t wired to listen as human beings, although it is one of the first things we learn in our mother’s womb. We think at more than 400 words a minute and speak at 150, so it’s no wonder our minds wander when we should be listening.

To be truly curious, we need to listen to:

  • ourselves both logically and intuitively
  • the responses of others, without bias or judgement
  • situations that present themselves
  • thoughts, feedback and feelings through all our senses

5.  Be interested

Reframe ‘boring’ or situations and people we are fearful of ‘interesting’. A simple reframe can change your energy, attitude and ability to be curious. We can learn much from others if we have an open mind and question things.

When the stakes are high, and the pressure is on, it can be difficult for us to pause before acting, take a step back and reflect on why we are doing what we are doing.

Sometimes questioning our actions on the bigger things can be hampered by our inaction on questioning the smaller things.

Take the time to build your curiosity muscle and create the space to make it part of your team and organisational culture.

I’d love to hear what you do to instil curiosity?

Lead to be Limitless…

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