The following post is an excerpt from “Eve of Influence: Keys to unlocking exceptional leadership in women”. In this book, Leadership Zone Founder and Director Liz McCoy provides a practical guide to increasing leadership expertise and how to foster the development of compassionate, kind and connected workplaces. Eve of Influence is for the women who are fully committed to their leadership journey. For women who are willing to go deep, and work on themselves for the betterment of those they influence and guide.
In this post, Liz discusses curiosity – the first of three ‘emotional states’ and provides practical advice on how to develop your curiosity as a leader.
If you would like to read the entire book, I invited you to download it here.
Curiosity can be defined as a strong desire to know or learn something.
It is a physiological state that is associated with openness, interest and inquiry. At the time of writing this text, my youngest daughter turned eighteen. From the moment she was born, she has been the colour and fun and core of my world. We had wrapped her presents with creativity and care, and as she sat in anticipation of opening them, her excitement was palpable.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said:
‘I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.’
Lewis Carroll bestowed this gift in abundance to his character Alice (in Wonderland). He describes her as:
‘ready to accept the wildest impossibilities with all that utter trust that only dreamers know; and curious – wildly curious, and eager with the enjoyment of life that comes only in the happy hours of childhood, when all is new and fair’.
I’m sure you will agree her world is filled with rich experiences as a result of her insatiable curiosity. But, not only is Alice’s world transformed for herself, the impact on those around her is priceless.
When was the last time you felt truly, deeply seen by another person?
The last time someone sat and listened to you with no intent to tell their own story or offer their opinion …but simply and respectfully listened to yours …without judgment, without solutions, without an agenda other than curiosity. If you are struggling to remember, you are not alone …it truly is a very rare gift.
I was honored to be the recipient of that very gift recently as I caught up with a wonderful, naturally focused, relationship orientated leader. She sat comfortably listening to me as I spoke. Not once did she interrupt, or take the conversation back – but simply listened with an open mind and an open heart.
Then, when she was sure I’d finished, she posed another question that demonstrated, not only had she heard everything I’d said, but genuinely wanted to go deeper and learn more. Your intent to bring to your interpersonal exchanges a that of a genuinely interested, open, seeking attitude – has the effect of invoking a feeling of being heard and deeply valued in the other person.
You literally influence the neurochemistry of the other through that intent.
In order for us to do this effectively, we need to first manage our own neurochemistry and physiological state. Just how we get excited about potentially winning the lottery, we ‘turn on’ curiosity in exactly the same way. alit is entirely about what we are saying to ourselves (our own internal thinking), and recognising the feeling or emotion it brings.
The more familiar we become with the feeling of curiosity, the easier it is to switch it on. I cannot tell you the words or sayings that will work for you, it is each of our responsibility to find those for ourselves. But I can share what works for me, and what has worked for many of my clients over the years…
- I am a great listener
- I have an open mind
- I am a keen learner
- I am genuinely interested in your story
- I recognise and value your contribution
- I am excited by what you are going to share
The behaviours associated with curiosity are a natural consequence of this thinking …we lean in a little closer, we make eye contact, and we wait quietly and eagerly for a new understanding.
So here is your FIRST challenge:
Spend some time designing your own vocabulary, your own internal dialogue. What do you need to say to yourself to create the feeling of open, eager, excitement?
The more you practice and can connect with that feeling, the stronger the development of the neural network. Like any muscle, the more you work it, the stronger it grows.
So let’s work it … choose to connect with someone (literally anyone … parents, siblings, partner, children, colleagues), turn it on and turn it up. I know without a shadow of doubt, your relationship will be different.
With practice over time, showing up in the state of curiosity will become your norm. Until then, commit to a daily practice of openness and interest in others. It may be your water cooler conversation, your team meeting, or your conversation with a client.
Whoever the recipient, they will be blessed through your intent.