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Key Questions to Stay Curious

photo of Rusty the cat by Judi Madigan
photo of Rusty by Judi Madigan
How curious are you?

In my workshops on communication and achieving your goals I point out how important it is to listen with curiosity. We are most attentive when we are most curious. Instead of jumping to conclusions or judging before it's necessary, high performance leaders center their listening around staying curious.

How do you do that?

One way is by asking relevant questions. One of my mentors, Lester T. Shapiro (who wrote the book The Training Effectiveness Handbook) once said that the primary role of leaders is to ask relevant questions.

Here are some questions that I've found extremely relevant and that help me to remain curious:

What is your case?

We are always building a case and not always aware of the case that we're building or why. It might not even serve our best interests, and yet we can talk ourselves into anything. Stay curious about what you really want, what you think you want and (most importantly) is what you think is true really true?

What is your goal?

What do you want to achieve? Are you sure? Are you committed? Is your goal in this situation compatible with who you want to be known as?

What is your agenda?

What are you doing, consciously or unconsciously, to create the environment you just operate in? Is that what you want? What might you need to change to create your best possible world? Who can help? When will you begin?

What are your assumptions?

Interrogate your truth (as Susan Scott would say. For more on this see her great book Fierce Conversations). Identify possibilities, fallacies, misdirections, lies, hallucinations, dreams, rationalizations, and all fuzzy thinking. Stop making shit up!

What is unknown?

Identify the missing pieces. What's happening in the background? What has led to the current situation? Know what you don't know so that you can learn it. What do you need? Figure out what other people are looking for in the situation and if you can all reach a mutually beneficial outcome. Sometimes we're drawn into a competition that isn't even needed.

What do you need?

What do you need and where can you find it ini order to achieve your goals? Who can help? Be very honest about what resources you must have, and which are simply desirable but not critical. The first step to getting what you need, in order to get what you want, is to know what you need.

What are you curious about?

Stay open and curious no matter what. Consider wild, fun, miraculous possibilities. Stop judging and simply accept. You can always evaluate later on. That inner judge or inner critic is not gone for good, just on a break. Make the most of it. Challenge assumptions. Challenge limitations. Challenge imperfections. Smile.

That last point, to smile, is not a humorous throwaway. I mean it. Smile. See what a difference it makes. And for heaven's sake -- stay curious!

-- Doug Smith



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