I was lucky to be in Paris last week, exploring, learning and eating far too many baguettes. My traveling companion is a friend who fully embraces life (and is kind enough to share her Paris apartment with me). My friend has traveled the world, yet still finds delight and new surprises around every corner.
We spent a morning admiring the exquisite work of Anders Zorn at the Petit Palace - paintings that inspire awe with technical excellence, warmth and beauty. Such a thrill to discover an artist we hadn't previously known! Lunch called, and we answered at a bateau on the Seine, where I indulged with Mussels and Fries, while gazing at a bridge so ornate that Napoleon himself would be satisfied. In other words, an embarrassment of riches.
Seated next to us was a couple from New Jersey, who struck up a conversation upon hearing our California accents. Their first trip to Paris together, launched thanks to a business conference. Plans had changed, and spouses could no longer join the meeting, leaving the wife to fend for herself. Imagine our surprise when she said she would return home rather than spend a few days on her own. While we tried to encourage her that Paris offers a tremendous bounty of beauty and experience, she said she really wasn’t interested in exploring. I suspect her lack of curiosity was driven by a fear of the unknown.
What a sad thing to miss the opportunity of discovery when we stay where we're comfortable!
Being curious brings us a rich bounty - new ideas, new perspectives, new friends. Leaders who indulge their curiosity make the most of the team around them, unlocking solutions with their questioning gaze.
Curiosity requires courage: the courage to look foolish, to admit we don't know something, to risk embarrassment. Curiosity also requires time. We may ask 20 questions before we hit an "aha!".
Three ways to live curiously:
1. Ask yourself what part of your company you understand least, then go ask an expert in that area to teach you. You'll not only better understand your business, you'll also build a broader and more interesting network. (Shout out to Keith White as architect of this approach)
2. Develop questions that demonstrate sincere curiosity to your team: What problem is most challenging for you right now? Where would you spend your time if you could? What inspires you? Sincere curiosity breeds trust as well as deeper insight.
3. Commit to learning something new. Learning Excel, brewing beer, creating a website - anything that interests you propels you into a new place and out of that boring comfort zone. Learning in one area often unlocks new perspective in another, so choose what you like, just keep growing.
A leader's job is a thinking job. Daily pressure can pull us away from reflection; taking the time to question allows you to see beyond the immediate to new potential. Curiosity is the path to discover new solutions, connections, and of course, new art!