I was asked recently by a group of young leaders, what traits have proven most important in my career. I responded by telling them that there were three and they all started with the letter “C”. The first is being able to communicate well with others. The second is a recognition of the importance of connecting with people in a reciprocal and meaningful way. The third is to possess an insatiable curiosity about all things. Communication, Connection and Curiosity are the three traits that have proven most impactful in my career. I wish to talk about the latter here.
Communication, Connection and Curiosity are the three traits that have proven most impactful in my career.
From the onset of my career, I was meddlesome. I wanted to stick my nose into other people’s business, not in the form of inserting myself into the idle water cooler gossip about personal issues or office politics. No, what I wanted to know is what people did and how they did it! I was in sales and marketing, so manufacturing seemed a dark and mysterious place. The noises and the smells that emanated from behind that large metal door that guarded the entrance to the plant was so alluring. My curiosity was just gnawing at me. So, while my buddies went to lunch and talked about business, golf and the banalities of life, I donned a hair net and a smock and became a lunch time explorer of the unknown. I felt like the Indiana Jones of Manufacturing. Like Indy, the years may have not been kind to my personal aesthetic, but they have done little to dampen my desire to continue my exploration. I still spend my days in pursuit of new learning.
The noises and the smells that emanated from behind that large metal door that guarded the entrance to the plant was so alluring.
Leaders are asked to make big decisions everyday. Decisions that effect the outcomes of the business and impact the lives of its’ employees. Knowledge is an important ally in that process. It is important to note that before there can be wisdom, there must be knowledge. Curiosity is the mechanism for acquiring that knowledge, the sources of which abound in any organization. A curious leader looks at every interaction as a chance to learn. Always questioning, she seeks to understand the processes, to see the opportunities, and to unearth the challenges all the while storing that information for future use.
Curiosity is the mechanism for acquiring that knowledge, the sources of which abound in any organization.
Knowledge springs forth in a 360 degree fashion. We can learn in every direction. Internally or externally, up the organizational chart or down. The only prerequisite is curiosity. The process is straightforward. It simply requires you to know what you don’t know and then to be determined to go find a way to know it.
The only prerequisite is curiosity.
At the outset of this article, I wrote that I wanted to focus on curiosity. But, I would be remiss if I did not draw your attention to the interrelatedness of the other two “C’s”. To learn from others necessitates an ability to communicate well in order to put them at ease. Questioning in the eyes of the one being questioned can be misperceived as doubt or distrust. The curious leader must be able to allay that fear and impress upon them that the inquiry is simply meant for their own education. Additionally, when you ask someone a question with a real interest in its answer, it requires you to listen fully to their response. Little does more to connect you with others than listening. To build a connection, you need to make that person feel heard, cared for, valued and respected. Asking them to share their knowledge and then listening acutely to their answer accomplishes just that.
Little does more to connect you with others than listening.
So while curiosity my be a cat’s recipe for disaster, it is a leader’s meal ticket for growth. Not only does it help build knowledge and, therefore, wisdom. It also improves communication and fosters a deeper connection with others.
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Elliot Begoun is the Principal of The Intertwine Group. He works to grow businesses and business leaders. He helps organizations tell their stories and build relationships with their customers. He helps leaders better connect and communicate with those whom they lead, and serves as a thinking partner to executives and their teams.
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