This is a guest post by Kathy Archer from Silver River Coaching.
Leaders need to be in control, in charge, and have all the answers. Right? No. That is not entirely accurate. In fact, the best leaders often don’t have all the answers. What the greatest leaders have is a tremendous amount of curiosity. In other words, they ask a lot of questions that they don’t know the answer to.
Doesn’t asking questions make me look dumb?
Why is it important to ask questions you don’t know the answer to? I mean really, doesn’t that highlight how unwise you are? Are leaders not supposed to be intelligent, invincible, and have all of the answers?
A leader has two primary jobs:
1. To grow and develop others
2. To move the organization and it’s people (the ones they are growing and developing) from where they are now towards a shared vision of the future
If a leader already knows how to achieve the desired results then they would be doing it. But they are at the beginning, not at the end point of success. That is because they don’t know how to get there, yet! Additionally, despite what some leaders might believe, they can’t do it on their own. A leader needs a team. The best way to grow that team and to move toward the future vision is to get really curious.
Do you know where you are going?
To create a vision you need a clear picture of where you want to be. Start by asking questions:
- If we were really successful at making positive changes in the next year, what would be different?
- Imagine a year from now we are reaching significantly improved outcomes. What processes would we be doing differently?
- What impact would our positive changes have on our relationship with our stakeholders, clients, and funders?
Do you know how to get there?
To figure out how to realize your vision you need a plan. Creating a plan requires more questions:
- Imagine we changed our intake processes to make them more streamlined. Where did we start?
- What skills would our teams need to develop in order to achieve those desired outcomes?
- If we were to look back a year from now, what roadblocks would we have to overcome (and how did we do it) to achieve that new vision?
When a leader is willing to ask questions, explore possibilities, and invite introspection, they can spark incredible growth in their team. A leader’s willingness to explore the unknown may open the door to discover a whole range of possibilities that may not have existed if they had merely provided a solution.
What it takes to be more curious
Being curious requires a leader to be vulnerable and admit they don’t have all the answers. By applying curiosity in situations, there might be a bubbling up of resistance or fear in ourselves. Yes, you could be opening up a whole can of worms. Yes, you might discover something you don’t like. Curiosity requires you to let go of control and accept ambiguity and uncertainty. It requires admitting that you don’t know it all and need help.
Learning to let go of control takes time and effort. Be intentional about it. You may select an area to focus on. For example:
Rather than implementing a new hiring system myself, I am going to ask 3 staff to develop the system. I am going to work on giving them more control and autonomy because I know it will help them grow. They will have the opportunity to become more confident and feel they are valuable, contributing members of the team. I’m going to simply get curious about what they can create.
The advantage of curiosity
The reality is there is an incredible wealth of knowledge, expertise, and experience in a whole team. When that vast information becomes available, it surpasses what one leader can do on their own. This expanded potential is what sets incredible organizations way out front of average organizations. Groups are able to excel when leaders are willing to leverage everyone’s strengths, talents, and experience.
The way to get more curious
Ask questions. Ask lots of questions! Inquire with no judgement, no preconceived answers in your mind, and no prior expectation of a right way to respond. Probe with open-ended questions and a child-like playfulness as you search for new insights.
- What other options have we not looked at yet?
- What else do we need to explore?
- What have we not thought about?
- What would you like to try?
Use curiosity to your advantage
Many of the best leaders are curious souls. They ask a lot of questions they don’t know the answers to. A curious leader’s inquisitiveness helps them grow and develop their team so they can achieve a shared vision, together.
Let go of control. Let go of fear. Replace it with curiosity. When you do, you may find yourself and your organization more rapidly achieving your desired results.
Silver River Coaching
Kathy is a leadership coach for women who want to strengthen their leadership and find balance in life. She mentors women as they rediscover their purpose, passion, and persistence for life while dealing with office politics, jerk bosses, and the challenges of family life. In her signature program Women with Grit: Leading with Courage & Confidence, Kathy gives her ladies the hope and inspiration they need along with a kick in the pants to make positive change in their lives. You can find Kathy at silverrivercoaching.com