Where curiosity and inquiry takes you.
As leaders, our shared priority is building an atmosphere of collaboration and confidence. A desire to breed success within our team is normal. The challenge is knowing how to get there and understanding what affects our perception. Consider this concept: Thoughtfully and inquisitively, rather than aggressively, applying pressure to conversations. The following interaction initiated an important conversation with our team.
‘Why Don’t You’ vs. ‘Do You Know How?’
There’s a young child playing at the pool. He’s running around, getting in and out, but waiting each time for his caretaker to give him assistance. It looks like he might even want to jump but is holding back out of fear.
The easy question for the caregiver to ask is, “Why don’t you jump?” Many people would’ve asked that.
The word “why” can carry judgment. As children, we were likely asked a version of that question often—it leaves a subconscious emotional scar on adults. The question, “Why?” becomes aggressive and has the potential to make us doubt ourselves. When asked ‘why…’ a feeling of self-consciousness arises because what if we don’t have the correct answer, or what if we disappoint?
His caretaker took the initiative to ask “Do you know how to jump in?”. He answered, “yes.”
This question allowed the child to provide an explanation, opening the door for conversation. The former might have put him on the defensive or pushback. That type of exploratory question is invaluable to us as facilitators and leaders. Rather than putting our teams, community, or loved ones on the spot with a harsh ‘why’ we can offer a more empathetic self-exploration of what we know or may seek to know.
The caregiver followed that question with “Do you want to?” insinuating that if he didn’t want to, he wouldn’t be forced.
This is critical to our independence and to our innate human right to choose. If we can take the lesson here, not forcing those around us to do what we want just because we want them to, we learn to lead with kindness and understanding. We also can instill a sense of individual respect for our teams when we, as leaders, respect our teams’ right to choose. We gain a better understanding of how to truly help them grow, whether it be through additional support, resources, or a change to gain knowledge.
The child responded with a version, “I want to, and I know how, but something’s holding me back.”
This came from such a place of curiosity and inquiry, and the caretaker allowed the child to talk through those things rather than making or forcing an assumption. Assumptions, as we all know, can lead to misunderstandings that affect every aspect of our organizations and communities.
The approach certainly has an impact, not just on children. It begs the question, what kind of relationships are we foraging with those around us?
How do we shape perception, and what does it influence?
We shape perception with our approach. There’s a difference between challenging others and pushing others. Inquisition is positive pressure.
By shifting our approach to thinking with others, we can change how we interpret, encourage, and unleash everyone around us. Are you communicating through assumptions or asking questions to open up the conversation? Are you conveying curiosity about thoughts or emotions as well? How are you listening and using answers to shape your understanding?
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Mutual value emerges as we align on our intentions, learn from each other better, and understand how to achieve our goals better. People naturally focus inward, but we also appreciate understanding the “why” behind how decisions are made. By providing transparency about our strategy, people perceive themselves as part of the effort rather than cogs in a machine. Lead with humility and recognize that collaborative efforts create the best ideas and solutions.
We can mature in how we operate with integrity and convey authenticity as leaders and teammates. Perception of and by teammates then becomes a positive consequence of our ability to communicate and shape our decisions.
Information taken in also shapes perception. People naturally focus their attention on the messages we choose to put out. Are we clear on our values as a company? Are we living those out in how we operate? How are we managing the messages we share? Are we aligned in our approach, or is there something we need to dive deeper into through conversation?
Perception takes on many forms. Within the workplace, perception has a tremendous effect on the nature of both internal and external relations. Perhaps most importantly, the team environment can impact employee loyalty tremendously.
People perceive leadership and other teammates to understand their value, so they are more interested in contributing toward a common goal. Are interactions with our teammates positive? Do individuals feel valued? In particular, do they feel valued by leadership? When teammates perceive our intentions as exploratory, inclusive, and intentional, we develop team trust and enable healthy growth.
Interested in developing your approach? We offer Leadership Development Programs to unlock new techniques to reframe your approach to leadership. We work collaboratively to understand your current flow and find opportunities to improve it.