The ability to lead others effectively is a key to success in growing a business. But in the transactional business world that has gone virtual, we spend most of our time treating each other like strangers.
Taking into account all the digital exchanges we have during a workday, what can we as leaders do to humanize our interactions, draw people to us and build trust?
It comes down to one word: curiosity.
Research has found: that curious people are known for their better relationships, and that other people are more easily attracted and socially closer to individuals who show curiosity.
Curiosity is a strong foundation for developing a growth mindset so you can keep learning. Research published in Harvard Business Review states that people with a higher “curiosity quotient” (CQ) are more curious and generate more original ideas, and this thinking style leads to higher levels of knowledge acquisition over time.
Organizations will also benefit greatly from hiring prospective employees who show curiosity. In one study published in HBR“the most curious employees sought the most information from colleagues, and the information helped them in their work — for example, it increased their creativity in addressing customer concerns.”
From a leadership perspective, being willing to be curious and ask questions can help you see the nuances of a challenge more clearly and achieve better results.
But here’s the thing. If you find yourself in a bureaucratic environment too often, bureaucracy or the status quo drives us to stop being curious and asking questions because we think we already have the answers. But by sparking your curiosity and getting others to do the same, we open up to new ideas that can solve complex problems at a much faster pace.
To take your curiosity quotient to the next level, companies are now starting to realize that top-down learning isn’t always appropriate, and as a result, ‘reverse mentoring’ programs are emerging.
In reverse mentoring, a junior team member forms a professional friendship with someone of older age and they exchange skills, knowledge and understanding. For example, a younger team member may be more tech-savvy, so encouraging a link with an older colleague or manager with less experience using technology can improve that manager’s ability to connect with potential customers.
This is not a new idea. In the late 1990s, General Electric (GE) asked 500 of their top executives to seek mentors among new employees.
Conversely, mentorship recognizes that there are skills gaps on both sides and that each person can address their weaknesses using the other’s strengths. A younger team member can pass up-to-date skills and ideas up the corporate ladder, and an older person can become a mentor or coach for that person.
Bill Gates’ take on curiosity
in 2019, Bill Gates spoke to students, parents, and alumni at his high school alma mater in Seattle. One question posed to Gates is especially noteworthy for the next working generation: “What are the skills today’s students need to know to thrive in the world of 2030 and 2040?”
Gates emphasized the critical importance of curiosity as a framework for acquiring knowledge. A growth mindset as a foundation and drive to stay curious and keep learning, Gates said, will help prepare future employees for the immense changes that will take place.