Curiosity Did Not Kill The Cat!

September 10th, 2012 | Coaching

Guest Post by Andy Uskavitch

(originally posted to

In order to help your employees grow you have to know about them. You have to know what they’re capable of – not only in your eyes, but in their eyes. You have to know what they enjoy doing – both at work and at home.

  • What do they consider a job well done?
  • If they were given time, what types of projects would they want to work on?
  • What resources do they need that you’re not aware of?

“Curiosity might be the most under-the-radar and undervalued leadership competency in business today.” This is just one of the thought-provoking and meaningful quotes from the new book, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want, by Beverly Kaye & Julie Winkle Giulioni (releases Sep 18).

Fairness is Not Fair

We always hear, from employees, about how things have to be fair. But everyone is NOT the same so you can’t use a one-size-fits-all approach. Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same schedule, raise, or attention.

The solution?

Be curious so you can determine just what is fair to each individual person.

Think about how “fairness” affects you and the organization.

Say you have one employee (A) that always has a positive attitude, has initiative, always exceeds expectations, and generally outperforms other employees (B). If you treat employee A and B exactly the same, with the same pay, raises, and perks, there will be no incentive for employee A to continue performing so well.

Is this being fair to employee A?

Being the Sincerity Role Model

You, of course, know that you’re a role model, right? Well you should. If you’re more curious, it’s going to trigger your employees to be more curious.

They too, will find out more about their own teammates and become more curious (ie, ask questions, plan) about how projects may pan out – fixing possible problems before they happen.

Don’t forget that your curiosity needs to be sincere.

Kaye and Giulioni go on to say this: “Quality questions asked without curiosity will signal to employees that you’ve just come back from training. Quality questions asked with the spirit of curiosity will facilitate conversations that will literally allow others to change their lives.” An a-ha moment, to be sure – one of many in their book.

How to Be Curious

Some basic questions you can ask, according to Margaret Heffernan in her Inc. Magazine article, Inspire Your Workforce: Be Curious:

  1. Find out 10 things about your employees that you could not find on their resumes
  2. Learn the names of each of their spouses or significant others
  3. Find out how many pets belong to your workforce
  4. See if you can find out one book each team member has recently read
  5. Identify a favorite food (or drink) that each person likes

Ask these questions and you just may gain more enthusiasm and respect for your team. Heffernan said one CEO came away with far more creative ideas about how to motivate his employees, and by knowing what excited them, was able to connect better with them.

An effective environment is supported by high quality relationships between managers and their employees. Employees will work their hearts out only if they want to, and that’s determined mainly by the quality of the relationship with their managers.

A Curious Case in Point

Way back when, when I was working retail I worked with another manager that would always complain to me about one of our employees – we’ll call her Betty – no, Veronica. She’d tell me that Veronica was lazy, unmotivated, and disregarded her “power.”

On the other hand, I’d describe her as just the opposite. When we sat down one day to figure out why we described Veronica so differently, it quickly became obvious that it all had to do with our leadership styles. Where I asked Veronica about what work she liked and wanted to do, and about her family, and her future – my counterpart could have cared less.

I worked WITH Veronica’s strengths and worked ON her weaknesses. She was a model employee with me and a royal pain-in-the-arse with our other manager . . . all because I was curious. Wow, what a concept?

  • How is your relationship with your employees?
  • Are you curious enough about your employees to find out more about them? (you should be)
  • What can you do today to become more connected?

I would love to hear your thoughts!

Andy Uskavitch is a Certified Manager (CM) specializing in leadership/staff development and quality excellence programs at OneBlood, Inc., St. Petersburg, FL.

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2 thoughts on “Curiosity Did Not Kill The Cat!

  1. Excellent example. Successful management can only be achieved by actually LISTENING first. Only then can the best and most productive interactions take place.

  2. Dr. Roman thanks for your comment! What is one thing you do to listen effectively?

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