The modern proverb “Curiosity killed the cat” showed up on the scene in the late 1800’s. It was a warning against investigating too deeply into things. If you didn’t heed this wisdom, it was going to kill you! That’s a pretty dire warning.
But when it comes to coaching, curiosity is the key.
Having an attitude of curiosity is essential to being an engaged coach. When we are genuinely curious about the person we are coaching, it communicates and it creates connection. At its core, curiosity is about being focused on the other person and not on yourself. If you have a mindset of curiosity about the person you are in conversation with, it is difficult to be focused on yourself. One of the reasons curiosity creates connection is because everyone likes to have someone take an interest in our lives! There’s a little narcissist in all of us. And as a good coach, you know it is all about the client and their agenda. Being curious about the person you’re coaching keeps the focus on them and not on you.
We can be curious throughout the whole of the conversation. When we are starting, the spirit of curiosity says, “I wonder what is most important to my client today.” “I’m curious as to why this topic is of importance to them.” As there is clarity of focus around the topic, curiosity says, “I wonder what might be behind this.” “I’m curious what insights they are going to gain as we dig into this issue.” When you come to the action steps of the coaching conversation, curiosity helps to keep the conversation focused on their ideas and outcomes. “I wonder what creative solutions they are going to come up with.” And when it comes to the accountability piece, curiosity asks “What is the best way for them to accomplish their action steps?”
Like cats, some people are just naturally more wired for curiosity. But it is something we can all develop and grow in. Curiosity is a habit we can strengthen in everyday conversations with others. Every conversation is an opportunity to practice curiosity.
Try this experiment today in the next conversation you have: Choose to be curious first. Totally focus in on the person you are talking to and be really curious about everything about them and what’s behind what you’re talking about. (A bit of a warning. Don’t turn the conversation into an interrogation! Trust me – that will not go well!)
One more application of curiosity is toward yourself. Self-awareness leads to self-leadership. Be curious about what you’re thinking and why. What you’re feeling and why. What you’re doing and why. As you become more in tune with yourself, you will become more in tune with your intuitions, a key skill required to coach at a higher and deeper level.
Curiosity won’t kill you. It will make you a better coach. And as you practice it in everyday life, it’s likely to make you a better spouse, parent, friend and co-worker as well. Curiosity is the key.