Her statement was cited by many participants as one of the key take-aways at the end of the three day program and I still use it today to help me better understand those I work with. She encouraged us to “wonder why” someone was acting the way they were, rather than judge them or assume you know their reasons. A powerful aspect of the first leadership competency, Leader of Self, is to know yourself AND others.
Beverly Kaye, an expert on employee engagement, and Marshall Goldsmith, named the number 1 leadership thinker in 2015, have both identified the practice of asking questions and developing curiosity as a crucial component of leadership success.
In “The Art of Asking Questions,” Goldsmith recommends the following specific techniques to learn how to ask questions that deepen understanding:
- Start with a setup statement that sets the context for the dialogue and why you want to better understand someone.
- Ask questions that require higher-level thinking. Your purpose is to gain insight and understanding, not just exchange facts.
- Avoid specific questions that feel judgmental. You are going to wonderland but limit questions that start with “why did you do that?”
- Use your own curiosity to stimulate more curiosity. Be authentic in seeking to understand and demonstrate genuine enthusiasm as you learn more about your people.
Beverly Kaye, in “The Inclusion-Curiosity Connection” provides a quiz that you can use to understand your own curiosity. Using a scale of 1 – 7, Never – Always, read the statements below and ask yourself, How frequently do you make an effort to…
- Give yourself time to ponder issues and outcomes?
- Wonder how things work?
- Engage in self-initiated research?
- Ask questions of others?
- Try to understand how others think, feel and behave?
- Explore “what ifs” with others?
- Seek out different points of view?
- Experiment and try novel approaches?
- Stretch yourself with challenging experiences?
Where did you score high? Low? What did you learn about yourself? Most importantly, what can you continue to do or start doing to become more curious and better understand your people?