When wanting to know more about people, it helps to know their stories. Channel the power of curiosity to create rewarding relationships and earn business.
By James L Katzaman
(Posted from Tealfeed.com with permission. Guest blog)
Stories are the heart of every person’s hopes and dreams
When wanting to know more — call it curious — about people, it helps to know their stories.
“I had a bed and breakfast where the biscuits became a big part of my brand and marketing,” said Gail Robertson. “It was more than the biscuits. It was all about the story and how it resonated for people around emotion.”
From that she learned how to channel the power of curiosity to create unexpected and rewarding relationships.
Robertson describes herself as a recovering journalist who does research, an offshoot of curiosity.
“In times of uncertainty, curiosity helps us adapt,” Robertson said. “People credit curiosity as highly valuable, but a sign of not being experienced enough at work.
“Yet, a curious mindset leads to innovation,” she said.
Talking with leadership and performance coach Nathalie Gregg, Robertson looked at how to encourage this trait.
“Curiosity is good for business,” Robertson said. “It encourages new ideas and helps overcome fear.
“Research by Harvard professor Francesca Gino has shown curiosity leads to more creative ideas, better team performance, conflict resolution and broadening of networking,” Robertson said.
A Canadian bank study looked at curiosity as a trait.
“That was valuable because curious people were found to be more successful,” Robertson said. “They are better at networking and collaboration. They perform better at their jobs.”
Willing to Take Risks
Following through on curiosity takes a bit of courage.
“Curiosity means we ask questions even when we fear it may make us look like we don’t know something,” Robertson said. “Curious people are willing to take risks. That is what leads to innovation. Tell me no, and I want to find a workaround.
“Curiosity also helps us connect to others because we ask questions,” she said. “We listen, and we love stories.”
Gregg liked the idea that curiosity increases risk taking.
With curiosity, leaders admit they don’t know everything, which opens their minds to new ideas and recognizing the people who offered them.
Robertson encourages people to ask questions, listen and be open to ideas:
- Be curious, not judgmental. Assume less.
- Staff worry about being judged, which can lead to “learned helplessness.”
- Be careful about absolutes.
- Banish the word never.
- Be aware of your body language.
“You can’t be curious and judgemental,” Robertson said. “If ever I start to judge, I know I need to stop and be more curious and ask myself, what might I not see right now.
“There is a lot of judgment in the world and society right now,” she said. “We may need to reflect on that, too.”
Curiosity questions the status quo, which makes you less susceptible to accept obstacles and peer around the corner for a better way to reach your goal.
Observe and Ask
Robertson said that when faced with a problem, step back, observe and then ask these questions:
- What if we tried xxx?
- How could we do xxx differently?
- What other options are there?
- Who else can we ask?
“Exercise your curious brain all the time so you are ready for a crisis,” Robertson said. “With a pandemic, we had to move online. It meant change.
“When curious, you look for solutions: more engaging online panels and using video to a greater degree,” she said.
Robertson noted that mold manufacturer Cavalier created a virtual tour so people could still see inside the plant.
“When you are always growing and learning, you also expand your network,” Robertson said. “Then if you have an obstacle, you have people to call on to help.
“I have called on people — skills I learned as a journalist,” she said. “It is very freeing to not have to know everything.”
Business owners would be particularly interested in how curiosity can help them tell better stories that convert into income.
Robertson recommends asking questions and then following her three-step process:
- Sign up.
- Suit Up.
- Show Up.
“You can find your story,” Robertson said. “Then share it and build relationships leading to business. Stories will convert to business over time because they help you build relationships.
“We need to reflect on our stories,” she said. “There is research about memory and how a story changes over time.”
For her inspiration, Robertson listens to the Hidden Brain podcast.
“It feeds my curious brain,” she said. “It’s why I truly work on being curious, not judgemental. “
Curiosity makes you bored with your present comfortable circumstances. Aching for something different gives you the motivation to cast old ways aside.
“You overcome fear when you learn and develop new habits,” Robertson said. “It may not always be easy but that comfort zone will expand.
“I knew nothing about manufacturing, but now I can hold my own in many conversations,” she said. “I had to work that curiosity muscle to learn and grow.”
One benefit might be that curiosity keeps you focused and less prone to suffer critics.
“When you use curiosity, you can also overcome your fear of being judged,” Robertson said. “You can find others who also are curious — not judgemental.
“Asking questions also leads to positive outcomes too,” she said. “Studies show people like people who are interested, engaged and ask questions.”
A collateral effect is being more trusted and liked.
“People may even be flattered when you ask them questions,” Robertson said.
You are your biggest barrier to expanding your curiosity. Fear of the unknown takes over.
“Judgment is a huge barrier,” Robertson said. “We are afraid people will judge us. So, we don’t speak up or ask questions. Curiosity drops off after age 4 — age 4. Fear is the biggest barrier.
“Our education also focuses more on cookie-cutter learning and not critical thinking,” she said. “In some ways, education can be a barrier.”
Not Necessarily the Brightest
People who think they are the font of wisdom go through life with closed minds.
“Often, the brightest among us struggle because they often think they have the answers already,” Robertson said.
“Sometimes getting outside your comfort zone also means admitting you don’t know everything,” she said. “You realize that maybe there is another way to look at a problem.”
In business terms, curiosity can transform a company so it can attain extraordinary results.
“People will be attracted to you through your story,” Robertson said. “They will then want to give you business because people do business with people they know, like and trust.
“Curiosity helps build relationships,” she said. “So, hire for curiosity. Encourage it. Support it.”
The results will burnish your brand.
“You will have greater innovation and stand out in a crowd,” Robertson said. “You will learn more and then grow exponentially.
“Add learning goals to your business plan and staff development,” she said “Add a different area of study. Add art, music and fitness to work.”
Research by Francesca Gino backs this up.
“She has done the legwork to prove what I have known most of my life,” Robertson said. “It’s good to have her research. Now so many things make sense: We need stories.”
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