Curiosity – Leaders Can Encourage It!

Last evening, I read a very good article in the Sept/Oct 2018 issue of the Harvard Business Review.  The article, entitled “The Business Case for Curiosity” by Francesca Gino (Professor, Harvard), spelled out why curiosity is so important in our businesses and for our team members.

Prof. Gino defines curiosity as “the impulse to seek new information and experiences and explore novel possibilities“.  As much as I value curiosity, it was sobering to read “although leaders might say they treasure inquisitive minds, in fact most stifle curiosity fearing it will increase risk and inefficiency“.

Prof. Gino speaks of two barriers to curiosity:

  1. Leaders have the wrong mindset about exploration.  The fear here is this could lead to a “costly mess”, make the company harder to manage, and could possibly slow down operations.
  2. Leaders tend to seek efficiency to the detriment of exploration.  Prof. Gino uses Henry Ford’s drive to reduce production costs so much so that he was unable to be nimble enough to address General Motors surge in introducing a greater variety of automobiles for the public.

So how can a leader “bolster curiosity”?  Prof. Gino lists 5 ways:

  1. Hire for Curiosity
  2. The Leader should model inquisitiveness.
  3. Emphasize learning goals over or as much as performance goals.
  4. Let employees explore and broaden their interests.
  5. Have “why?” and “what if…?” and “how might we…?” days.

Harvard Business Review Sept cover

I am purposefully leaving out a lot of detail in this post. You should invest a small price to read this excellent article which can be found online here:  https://hbr.org/product/the-business-case-for-curiosity/R1805B-PDF-ENG

Or better yet, subscribe to HBR here: Harvard Business Review subscription information

Advertisements

Become a Detective by Jim Johnson

CEO Next Door

I have been reading the new book, The CEO Next Door, by Elena L. Botelho and Kim R. Powell.  In today’s reading, I came across the phrase “become of detective.”  The context of this speaks of when a leader is trying connect with their team, stakeholders, board members, customers, etc.  Becoming a detective means to work to truly understand the other person’s perspective so great decisions can be made and meaningful directions can be set and navigated.

 

 

So what do the authors state as the key elements of becoming a detective?

  1. Ask questions.  Become curious.  Asking versus telling will help you learn so much more about the other person’s values, needs, wants, concerns, etc.
  2. Engage intellectually.  No simple patronizing nods.  Ask more probing questions.  Follow up.  Follow through.
  3. Listen.  Engaging intellectually means you are actively listening and asking great questions based upon what you have heard.  Listening communicates to the other person you are investing in them – right now.
  4. Gather information to understand.  Don’t make decisions in a vacuum.  Your actions of asking/listening are the vital part of your information gathering.  And all of that should lead to better understanding the situation.
  5. Harness what matters to them.  Nothing frustrates customers/team members more as when a leader appears to have listened and then acts in a way that seems to ignore all of the previous interactions.  If you truly want to connect with your customers/team members, harness what matters to them based upon your interactions with them.

This book will be available at the first of March.  I received my copy through LeaderBox.  Or you can follow this link to pre-order your copy today.  It’s worth the read!

 

Voice vs. Vote by Jim Johnson

Every day, decisions are made at organizations everywhere.  In some companies, a select few are chosen to make the decisions.  In other organizations, more of a team approach is taken.  And there are plenty of examples of everything in between.

Your team members need to understand how decisions are made in your particular company, and they should understand what role they could play in the decision-making process.

I call the the Voice vs. Vote understanding.

If you serve in a company that allows team contribution during a decision-making venture (i.e. bringing on a new vendor, new software solution, etc.), be sure you are doing the following with/for your team members:

  1. Be on their side.  Actually, breakdown the “sides” and help them know their input is important to share.  And have them share it in the appropriate channels.  Ask for and expect open communication and the flow of ideas.
  2. Encourage them.  I’ve seen team members complain about a process but they offer no input into that process.  Encourage them to get involved!
  3. Give power to their voice.  Get them on a project where their experience and expertise are needed.  Expect collaboration.  Tell them that their voice needs to be heard.  Help connect them to the right people during a decision-making process so their voice is heard.
  4. Help them succeed.  Don’t assume your team member knows how to voice their opinion into a decision-making process.  Show them the way.  Help them succeed – even if their idea is not acted upon.
  5. Help them understand.  The decision-making process, recommendations, and letting go are critical for your team to understand.  Do not assume they already know how the “powers-that-be” operate.

Hopefully at your organization, everyone has a voice.  But as I explain to my team, not everyone gets a vote in the end.  But the voices during the decision-making process are vital for great decisions to be made.

speak up

 

Why vs How by Jim Johnson

When you are confronted with a challenge, question or any conundrum, what do you ask yourself?

Why is this happening?”

How can I figure this out?”

What you ask will determine your outcomes.

WHY seems to assume there in only 1 answer.  WHY can freeze you in your tracks – paralyzes you from moving forward. WHY creates a self-pity scenario.  WHY drains you. WHY is not the best way to deal with obstacles.

how

HOW triggers creativity in your brain – you will start looking for options and possibilities.    HOW looks for potential.  HOW energizes you.  HOW empowers you.

 

Take Action by Jim Johnson 

Leaders are faced with decisions and calls-to-action all day long:

  • Staffing decisions
  • Vendor decisions
  • Strategic plans
  • Customer resolutions
  • Team members needing feedback

At those critical points where YOUR action is required, ACT.  Don’t rely on good intentions.

  • “I’ll put off that difficult conversation with that team member…”
  • “I’ll call that vendor back next week…”
  • “Everyone knows where we’re going, right?…”
  • “That customer can wait…”
  • “Someone else probably will handle that question…”

Many times, it is the action of the leader that can begin positive momentum within their team/company.  Action can help initiate  great momentum.  Inaction can end up causing you and your team to stall out.  John Maxwell says:

“If you’ve got all the passion, tools, and people you need to fulfill a great vision, yet you can’t seem to get your organization moving and going in the right direction, you’re dead in the water as a leader.  If you can’t get things going (ACTION), you will not succeed.” (from The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership)

action always beats intention

So today, when facing a decision, ACT.  Get things moving.  Get your team moving.  ACT.

“Leaders always find a way to make things happen.”  John Maxwell

 

Leadership, Vision, and Grace by Jim Johnson

As I wrote earlier, one of my leaders invited me to lunch with Mayor Tom Henry of my hometown, Fort Wayne, Indiana.  We just returned from this private luncheon.

mayor henry

Mayor Henry is a genuine leader with a gracious spirit and a keen vision for our city.  His strategic plan for growth has seen our downtown begin to be revitalized.  Our city is experiencing growth in new businesses which creates jobs.  His plans have created wonderful family attractions.  His plans for the future will do even more of this.  He openly shared his vision for more growth and expansion – and exciting days are ahead for Fort Wayne.

At the end of our meeting, we gave him our gifts and he also shared gifts with us.  He was honestly thrilled to receive the books.  We were honored by his gifts.

Mayor Henry’s family has been a part of our city’s history for over 100 years now.  You can easily perceive his passion for Fort Wayne.  While the Mayor is no longer a young man, he was energized when talking about the future.  Investors are seeking Fort Wayne out – great things are in store for us!

Our Mayor is a busy man. He is the leader of the 2nd largest city in the state of Indiana.  But he took the time today to have a relaxed lunch with the two of us.  There were no politics at play.  No trying to sell us something.  He genuinely loves what he does and loves to hear how his vision has positively impacted our city.

Leadership.  Vision.  Grace.

May we all embody those attributes as we seek to influence others to success.