Want to get ahead? It’s time to get curious

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For Financial Advisors being curious and sceptical can help to ensure they question when they need to question, and reflect when they need to reflect.

Curiosity – it’s a simple concept in many respects. And yet it is something we find harder to do as we get older.

It’s almost as though it is abandoned for the comfort and safety of wanting to have all the answers.

We stop questioning. We base decisions on assumptions, hunches and past experience. We stop seeing exploration as a good use of time, and instead want to get to the answer as quickly and painlessly as possible.

It also becomes harder to say those three little words – “I don’t know”.

This is particularly the case when professionals operate in advisory roles. They are conditioned to believing that they have to all the answers, and that being an expert means knowing more than others and having the answers at their fingertips. It is about being in control and certain of their actions.

This approach enforces the notion that it is better to be certain than to be open to different possibilities. When that happens a person can close themselves off to new ideas and different ways of doing things.

An approach which, in today’s ever-changing and complex world, is incredibly unhelpful. In fact, it’s important to be sceptical and curious.

When a person does this they recognise there are multiple ways to approach things, and different perspectives. They embrace a growth mindset, rather than having a fixed idea or opinion. They question. They critically think and ponder ideas. They reflect on what is really happening, rather than just taking things at face value.

They take the time to ensure they are:

  • Considering – what’s happening around them and reflect on what they are seeing and hearing, and therefore what action they should take
  • Challenging – assumptions they and others may have to ensure they are making a good decision and are being open to dissenting views and outlier opinions
  • Checking –  their facts and interpretations of those facts as they are on the lookout for bias, which may adversely impact their thought processes and decisions.

For Financial Advisors being curious and sceptical can help to ensure they question when they need to question, and reflect when they need to reflect.

Other benefits include:

  1. Builds your leadership brand – real leaders are open to questioning and happy to admit what they don’t know. They know that providing the opportunity for their team members to share their ideas and to contribute to the discussion will lead to better organisational outcomes.
  2. Builds new neural pathways – remember the delight you experienced as a child when you did something for the first time. It’s the same with curiosity. When you discover something for the first time and try something new it lights up new pathways in the brain. It’s just like taking your brain to the gym. You are giving it a work-out!
  3. Builds better relationships – When you are curious about a person’s behaviour you can be more open to wondering what is driving their behaviour and what is triggering a reaction in you. This approach allows you to be open to what is happening and therefore suspend judgement. This is necessary if you are to really hear what the other person is saying, and be open to different points of view. All of which are essential for good relationships.
  4. Expands your frame of reference – Curiosity enables you to question with interest and compassion. It isn’t judgemental or about finding fault. It helps you expand your frame of reference, which in turn helps you to generate insight and understanding, and consequently make better decisions.
  5. Helps you better understand yourself – Being curious as to what drives your own thought processes, reactions and actions enables you to better manage how you react in any given moment.   This is mindfulness in action, which is scientifically proven to help you make better decisions and manage stress.

It was the great 18th century French philosopher, Denis Diderot, who said: “Scepticism is the first step towards truth.

So don’t hold yourself back from being curious. Embrace it and relish in the knowledge it will help you make better decisions.

Michelle Gibbings is a change and leadership expert and founder of Change Meridian. Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them accelerate progress. She is the Author of Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work.

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