Could the power of curiosity help leaders to emotionally manage uncertainty and ambiguity in the workplace? There is no doubt that the world is becoming more uncertain – leaders are called upon to have a higher degree of adaptability to handle the ever changing business landscape.
Curious? is new book by Todd Kashdan that explores the power and benefits of cultivating a curious mind. As children, our world is full of unknowns and we continually pester the adults in our world to answer question after question ‘ why is the sky blue? where does milk come from?’ at that age it is an open inquiry, for many without fear. We all have a capacity for curiosity, however as we experience life we start to change how we use curiosity. Some adults continue to be open to new experiences and face life with inquiry whilst others become more fearful of new experiences, uncertainty and life.
Working with leaders in a diverse range of industries across Australia it seems clear that curiosity is often replaced with control and knowing. This can lead to excellent problem solving based on past experience but undermines innovative thinking, it also can lead to increase in stress levels as leaders try to contain and control the variables in the workplace rather than engage curiosity and innovation.
Curiosity in Action
I spend my work life with leaders in highly intense, experiential leadership development programs. In these programs we use simulations and work based scenarios to observe and coach the participants through challenging, uncertain and pressurised situations. These simulations are designed to trigger a threat response, what we are looking for is how well a leader can emotionally regulate so they can adapt, deal with the uncertainty and work through the simulation effectively. I often coach these execs to use curiosity of a situation or a challenging person to regulate. Curiosity is an emotion that is based on being open and inquiring, this is often the exact opposite of how our leaders behave in these intense programs. With practice, leaders start to develop curiosity in those situations and are more able to read others emotions, respond rather than react and see another’s perspective. It’s a powerful tool.
Curiosity is underused – and certainly under-recognised by leaders and those who support the development of leaders.
Professor Wadhwa from the Personal Leadership Insitute at Colombia Business School offered the question in a recent lecture on the Executive MBA program. For those who see work as a job, they tend to focus on the financial rewards and perhaps express their passions outside of work. For those who see work as a career, they feel the same plus they strive for further reward from advancement and promotion. So what about those who see their work as a calling? Well often they will ask ‘why do people pay me for this?”, as work for them is a joy and they gain intrinsic satisfaction from it.
In a recent study, researchers looked at how people view their work in hospitals in the USA. They interviewed doctors, nurses and the cleaning staff. What was surprising was that about a third of all doctors and a third of all nurses and a third of all cleaners viewed their work as a calling. It is an interesting result and suggests that rather than the job defining whether an individual sees it as a calling, it is deeply influenced by how the individual chooses to view the work…. the art of reframing.
And why is this important? Those who view work as a calling tend to score higher in overall life satsifaction surveys both within work and outside of work. They tend to be more committed to their team, often have low tendency for conflict and build healthier teams and therefore create higher satsifaction levels for those around them.
So how do you view your work? A job, a career and calling? Is there a personal cost? How could you reframe how you view your work to connect with your passions and values? And what difference would that make to you?
When our mind wanders, where does it wander? And why does it seem to ruminate on what is wrong or what people may be thinking of me? How often does this increase our stress levels – worrying about what others may think – and yet we have no evidence that they are thinking about us at all! (more…)
Sometimes I feel like I’m multi-tasking on steroids. My phone is ringing, emails popping up and I’m trying to file client notes, deal with the cat’s latest insect victim and get on with designing workshops. At these times I often walk out of the office without my car keys, client notes or laptop and spend more time having to go back and pick up the missing bits of my life. (more…)