Curiosity is the single skill that transforms everything we do. Sadly, too few talk about curiosity–in fact we seem to be incurious. Imagine just about any job in sales, marketing, customer experience (or any job) and how the curious approach those roles. Imagine curiosity as a key management/leadership attribute, how would this change the way we coach, develop, and lead our people.
The curious salesperson will engage the customer with questions. Their curiosity will compel them to learn about the customer, what they are trying to achieve, what stands in the way of their goals, why they do the things the way they do them.
Curiosity helps us, with our customers, explore new ideas, to learn, grow, and change.
Curiosity, when we engage people in conversations, shifts the focus from us to others.
When we don’t know the answers or how to approach a situation, curiosity drives us to figure it out–to find or develop the answers. It provides a basis for collaborative conversations to solve problems.
As we look at the accelerating pace of disruption, change, and growing complexity, curiosity enables us to be more open to changing, to adapt to doing things differently. It enables us to be more open and inclusive in our decision-making processes. As a result, it drives higher levels of engagement.
Curiosity needn’t be random or undirected. It helps us when we are focusing on certain problems and challenges, it frees us from being prisoners of our experience to considering new and different approaches to addressing those problems.
As leaders, curiosity focuses us on our people. It drives us to understand who they are, what they want to achieve, the gaps in their ability to achieve. It causes us to engage them differently. It enables us to, collaboratively, figure out how we address performance issues.
In marketing (and sales), curiosity changes our focus. Rather than developing materials and content about who we are and the capabilities of our solutions, it drives us to understand why customers buy. It drives us to understand what customers value and how we can help them achieve their goals. We then develop programs and content based on those things, which are far more impactful. It enables us to position what we do in ways that are meaningful to the customer.
Curiosity shifts our focus from an inward-out to an outward-in. It puts our customers first, our people first.
In the absence of curiosity, we have to be completely prescriptive, we have to script everything our people do, we have to orchestrate the entire process, we have to enforce compliance. And we know that’s a failing strategy, because every situation, every interaction with the customer is different.
Curiosity is driven by an open/growth oriented mindset. It enables us to rethink everything, to be more willing to change–whether it’s our point of view, how we work, how we engage, what we do.
We will never be able to give our people the answers to everything they face. We cannot possibly script them for everything they encounter. But, with curiosity, our people are empowered to find the answers themselves.
We need to start focusing on curiosity as a fundamental attribute for all leaders and salespeople.
We need to recruit for curiosity.
Leaders need to model curiosity in their behaviors.
We need to start training and developing skills around inquisitiveness and curiosity.
Perhaps I’m going out on a limb, but if I could identify the one thing that could drive higher levels of achievement and performance, I suspect it will be curiosity.
Aferword: Thanks to Sheevaun Thatcher for a great discussion on this!