Nearly every innovation that the world has seen is the result of curiosity. But what if Mozart hadn’t been curious about composition, Leonardo da Vinci had ignored the human form, and Louis Pasteur never explored medicine? The world would be bereft of music, art, and even health as we know it. Curiosity serves as a trigger for innovation and invention.
The Business Perspective
As with inventions, curiosity has been behind a large number of success stories in the business world, too. Often hailed as the father of modern management, famed management consultant Peter Drucker put it like this, “My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.” Yet, in a professional setting, it is not uncommon to hear the phrase “that’s just the way things are done around here” when someone expresses curiosity. Some consider curiosity an annoying trait and label those who tend to question as being too intrusive, obstinate, and even naysayers. The truth is, the way the business field is evolving innovation is key, and without curiosity, there is no innovation.
Curiosity Did “NOT” Kill the Cat!
As the proverbial cat can attest, curiosity can land you in hot water at times, sure. But without risk, rewards tend to be greatly stunted. The number of times curiosity and a questioning posture has led companies to gigantic success and propelled them out of tough times vastly overshadows any disadvantages. When you’re one of the leaders in a business, you’re not only expected to question everything but also to be able to answer for just about anything. Promoting this culture within your business is the key to success today. As risk-taker and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson put it, “You shouldn’t blindly accept a leader’s advice. You’ve got to question leaders on occasion.”
Being curious doesn’t end with an ability to ask all the right questions when a problem arises. A leader has to show curiosity in everything under their influence. This calls for the other side of curiosity: listening. An incredibly powerful tool to use with your workforce, listening fosters the ability to question everything the right way. Effectively curious leaders don’t presume to know all the questions and all the answers. They also appreciate and reflect on the questions and knowledge of their staff.
Lee Iacocca, former CEO of Chrysler, gets to the heart of the matter in his book Where have all the Leaders Gone when he says that a leader “has to show curiosity. He has to listen to people outside of the ‘Yes, sir’ crowd in his inner circle. The inability to listen is a form of arrogance. It means either you think you already know it all or you just don’t care.”
Shifting Towards the Unorthodox
Challenging orthodoxy is the final aim of curiosity in the modern business world. Old-school strategies are no longer effective and need to evolve, which is possible only when a culture of listening and questioning is prevalent within a business. This leads to a business that is cognizant of potential conflicts, issues, and threats, resulting in the development of appropriate proactive business strategies.
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.
Every leader is a coach to those who follow them, and look to them for guidance. To be a successful leader, you need to consider those you are leading, and invest in building upon their skills. Your job as a leader is to be there when one of your team members is in a rut, but you can’t always help them reach a solution, because they will be forfeiting their own problem-solving skills in the process.
This allows a new problem to manifest itself: how can you be there for someone, yet only to an extent that they don’t become dependent on you?
The solution is simple: coach your team to expand upon their personal development. Given below, are a few ways in which you can coach your followers to brilliance:
1. Customize your Approach
Every member of your team is an individual with a unique set of skills. It doesn’t make sense then, to coach each employee in the same way. The weaker ones need more guidance, while the star performers only need feedback and grooming. When you tailor your approach to suit the individual needs of every team member, you will be optimizing the way your team runs, since everyone will be doing what they do best. This way you will see where each member’s skills lie, and you can utilize it fully. See them for who they are, understand them, and help them grow.
2. Establish a Relationship
Any relationship of significant importance is based on mutual trust, and confidentiality. In order for your team members to respect you, they must be able to confide in you, turn to you for help, and trust you to maintain their confidence while guiding them along the right way. Don’t patronize them for asking for help, and always make sure you let them know what they are doing right before telling them what to correct. This way, your team will see you as someone they can approach easily. And when they start asking for help, they will make fewer mistakes, and learn to develop their own skill set.
3. Dealing with Excuses
Some team members are hesitant to accept guidance and always fire out excuses. If this occurs at any point, change your tone, help them understand that you were not accusing them, and restate your sentiment as encouragement for the employee to reconsider their own work, and improve upon it. Be empathic, and try to understand things from your employee’s perspective while also gently reprimanding them if their work is not meeting the required standards. Don’t nitpick for tiny details, but don’t let them off the hook either. You must guide them and help them improve, and that can’t happen if they hang on to excuses.
As a leader, to run a cohesive and well-structured team, you must hone these abilities, so they may be available to you at your fingertips at any given time.
While selling—the touch point where income is made—remains a primary focus for any business, most organizations refrain from innovation in this segment. The conventional selling paradigm has gone stale, and to remain competitive in the current era, leaders should urge their organizations to make the shift to modern selling.
You might ask, though, what else can be done when it comes to selling? All there is to it is convincing people to buy and closing the sale. Not so! As a leader, here are a few ways through which you can increase your organization’s revenues by shifting to a new paradigm of selling.
Understanding and Connecting to the Problem
As per the conventional selling paradigm, the focus has been on selling a product or service. A leader needs to focus primarily on understanding the client’s problem that triggers the need of a product or service. Ever heard of the story of the man who goes to buy a fishing rod and ends up buying scuba diving gear?
Once the problem is in front of you, proceed to connect to it, and reposition your products or services in a way that they appear as significant value additions to the client. If done right, this can result in hugely improved sales.
Unearthing Potential Opportunities
A major mistake that many organizations make is to focus on the features and benefits of their offerings in order to make the sale. Instead, as part of the top-level management, try to foster the practice of asking insightful questions targeted to unearth potential opportunities. Clients are often unclear about the exact specifications of what they need. Capitalize on this and be on the lookout for opportunities to sell more.
Create Customer Love
Customer service is often a department but customer love is mindset and delivers a satisfactory customer experience. By inviting all team members into this new way of thinking, creates a seamless and consistent customer experience can be designed, resulting in higher customer satisfaction which is leads to customer love. This ultimately leads to increased revenue for the company.
Selling to Live, Living to Sell
This is a culture in which relationships need to be built and nourished over time. While the selling to live line of thought holds true in the grander scheme of life, business leaders should focus on ingraining the living to sell approach within the staff. This is done by each person creating a personal brand, attracting new opportunities, and, finally, establishing credibility in the marketplace.
Throw away the old; embrace the new! That is the philosophy of success in the modern world.
Failure is inevitable.
Even when one has had consecutive successes throughout their life, there will come a time when a certain strategy fails and plans backfire.
Success is never guaranteed.
As a leader, your team will look to you for support, and stability. A leader must be the epitome of resilience, encouraging others to rise from the ashes of disaster, and soar like a phoenix. However, the phoenix must have both wings to fly, and if you are encouraging others to remain optimistic, you must have an inherent supply of positivity yourself. A one-winged bird cannot remain airborne.
Here is how you can cultivate resilience, and always bounce back from failure:
1. Separate Yourself from the Failure
Don’t internalize the feeling, it was the plan or project that failed, not you. Once you learn to separate your identity and self-esteem from the situation, you will find that it is much easier to bounce back. Detach your ego from the project; you cannot let the failure affect you in a way that causes you to shrink away from challenges later on. Leaders tend to blame themselves, but instead of wallowing in self-pity, you ought to display fortitude and strength. This project may have failed, but have enough faith in your ideas to know that the next one will not.
2. Take an Analytical Approach
When you look at the failed situation analytically, you start to see it from another perspective, and in the process, alleviate feelings of frustration and regret. This will help you study the situation and indeed, learn from it. Once you have garnered enough information, you are ready to apply and incorporate the newfound insight into the next project you initiate. Broaden your mind, and use cool logic to approach any inconvenience, this will always ensure that emotion and reason are kept apart, allowing you to rationally work out a solution.
3. View Failure as Feedback
Instead of fearing failure, relish it. Understand that failed projects are signposts, guiding you along the right way. Until the incorrect method is pointed out and separated, one cannot determine what the correct method is. Failure is never final, it is simply feedback, helping you recognize where you had erred, and teaching you to reconcile your past mistakes. Good leaders are indefatigable and a small dose of failure can never keep them from moving ahead with speed, precision, and clarity. Learn from your mistake, and adapt to new experiences.
You stand out because of your ability to move past minor setbacks, and because you are able to see failure for what it really is: an enabler, a motivator and a teacher. You are already aware of this, it dwells in your sub-conscious, but you must draw out and hone the ability to adapt and grow, and only then can you truly rise above.
I have a good friend who just took on a new contract as a Communications Strategist for a nearly 70-year-old company. He was hired to use change management techniques in communicating to employees nationwide the replacement of a technology and business operations system that they had been heavily dependent on daily for the past 40 years.
This operating system has been a technology dinosaur for the majority of those years. Everyone knew it, but it took the company this long to make a change. Why? Because change isn’t easy, even when it makes sense. So, shifting your leadership brilliance in business or your personal life will take courage and consciousness.
Author and training and development CEO Brian Tracy once said, “Ninety to ninety-five percent of people will withdraw to the comfort zone when what they try doesn’t work. Only that small [remaining] percentage, five or ten percent, will continually improve themselves; they will continually push themselves out into the zone of discomfort, and these are always the highest performers in every field.”
Embrace the LeaderShift mindset. Leadership Brilliance is a mindset that produces the daily habit or behavior we call “LeaderShift.” Simply put, this means letting go of what is comfortable and convenient in order to create what is progressive and desirable.
And in case you’re wondering, you are a leader—whether you hold the title or not. By reporting obligation, proximity, experience or admiration, someone somewhere is looking at you as a role model of how to think, feel, do, and act.
The future of your business, industry, organization and own life is created in the present. You have the potential to lead your organization and business beyond all expectations or inhibit its growth through entropy. Everything that you think, say and act upon meets you and your team in the future and says, “Welcome, we’ve been waiting for you!” So the question is— “How will you as a leader prepare for the future?”
Here are 4 ways you can start owning your LeaderShift Brilliance today:
Reposition & Revitalize
Reinvent your professional brand and infuse new energy in your role within the company and on your team.
Master LeaderShift Skills
Become a thought leader in your area of expertise.
Connect, Connect, Connect
Instead of just communicating, get better at connecting with your colleagues, business partners and executive colleagues.
Be a High Performer
Produce high-performance work and create a high-performing team that exceeds expectations every time.
Brilliant Next Step:
Commit to an action step this week for each of the 4 ways to showcase your Leadershift mindset in your business environment:
Envision the leader you’re planning to be in five years, and invest now. Do something today as a nod to the leader you’re becoming – wear a sports coat in your business casual environment, take that leadership seminar, or volunteer to lead a project that seems challenging.
Commit to shaking things up today! Instead of dragging in that Monday morning meeting and conjuring up ideas when put on the spot, spend the weekend thinking ahead, bring coffee and pastries and whip out an unexpected visual to sell your innovative idea.
Really listen as a way of connecting today. Although you caught every detail related to selling more products, don’t miss it when Sally mentions her husband is undergoing chemotherapy. A well-timed card or note of encouragement goes a long way in making connections and creating a “real” team.
Make high performance a part of your personal brand. Today, hone in on areas in which you are weak in performance or consistency. It’s human nature to play up our strengths and ignore our shortcomings, but pick one – time management, administrative tasks, budgets or expense reports, relationship building – and commit to be a high performer even in this area.