April 3, 2017
You will find yourself in various difficult situations on your leadership journey. To handle these situations, you need to develop a toolbox of critical leadership skills. One such tool is curiosity.
Curiosity can help you to get to the root of a problem, stop workplace drama, and promote better workplace relationships. Curiosity keeps you out of assumptions and helps you navigate the unknown, especially when conducting difficult performance conversations.
Becoming a master at using curiosity requires you to ask effective questions.
Anyone can ask a question, but questions can be probing, provocative, or pushy. Timing is everything, but the key to asking a question is to start from the right intention.
A question asked from the intention to catch someone in a lie or to one-up the other is not really curiosity but game-playing. We’ve all been the victim of pseudo-curiosity where a superior asks a question to which the answer is already known. Underneath this kind of question is a passive-aggressive game of “gotcha.”
Below are two common situations you may face as a manager, with examples of an ineffective question and an effective question. As you read through the situations, take note that what determines the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the question is the underlying intention.
Ineffective question: Why in the world did you make that decision?
Intention: To shame someone
Effective question: Can you walk me through your thought process as you made that decision?
Intention: To learn how the other person makes decisions
Ineffective question: Did you know that what you said hurt Kim’s feelings?
Intention: To gossip, to reprimand, or to change behavior
Effective question: Have you thought about a more effective way to communicate with Kim?
Intention: To make the other person reflect or to open a dialogue for course-correction
Curiosity is a leadership skill that will help you lead others, increase engagement, and gain collaboration. If you use curiosity effectively, you not only gain knowledge but build better workplace relationships.
Curiosity must come from the right intention—the intention to understand, learn, or know more about someone or something.