Imagine yourself walking in a redwood forest and you came along the root system of a redwood exposed. If you engage your curiosity, what question comes to mind?
How old was the tree? How long has it been here? What made the tree tip? Where is the trunk? How tall was it? In a matter of minutes, you can probably generate many questions. Naturalists call this “teachable moments”. In organizations we call this great leadership. Hiking through redwoods your questions come from a place of spontaneous curiosity. As leaders we need to have “planful curiosity”.
A leader who uses “planful curiosity” has a few basic approaches.
- Clarity of Purpose: Be clear about what you are looking for: facts, details, stories, opinions or expert advice.
- Avoid Leading Questions: Try to avoid questions where a person can answer “yes or no”. Employees have a sixth sense for leading questions. If you want to be genuinely curious, lead with what or how or when. Questions that start with “Don’t you think we should…..” are going to end up with yes or no responses.
- Be Curious Together– Asking questions that encourage story telling, details, and opportunities to be curious together will result in far deeper understanding for all involved. Remember being curious about an employee is not you telling stories, it’s drawing out the stories, reflections and insights of an employee.
- Avoid “Why?”– Deanna Murphy of Strengths Strategy encourages coaches to avoid asking questions that start with “Why.” A slight shift to What creates openings to dialogue. “Why” can be heard as a judgement, “What” is about curiosity. “Why is that important?” sounds much different to an employee than “What about that is important to you?”
- Really Listen– Asking good questions starts by genuinely listening, not planning your next question or response.
Leaders can learn to be “planfully curious” by watching a great naturalist in action. As a naturalists heads out with a group, he/she never knows what will be around the corner or down the trail. Naturalists are trained for the teachable moment. A pheasant flushes out of the grasses, a deer jumps across the field, an osprey grabs a fish from the water, or a line of ants crosses the trail. Theses types of unplanned events require that a naturalist ask questions that spark curiosity and wonder.
How can you create a sense curiosity and wonder in yourself when you need to ask questions of your staff?What is one step you can take to be more “Planfully Curious?” How can you apply “planful curiosity” to your facilitation of meetings?