team members curious in person
August 11, 2021

Don’t Let This Perk Prevent You from Paying It Forward

A Harvard Business School professor surveyed three thousand employees from a wide range of firms and industries. She discovered only about 24 percent reported feeling curious in their jobs on a regular basis.

There’s been a lot of discussion about the perks of working from home and how that’s caused us to rethink many other workplace norms. In fact, I recently discussed the merits of reducing the number of meetings we schedule with a fellow LinkedIn member who asked “When can a meeting be an email?

My friendly debate with fellow commenters prompted me to recall a leader I’ve quoted: Jack Welch said, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” 

While some of us may be attempting to whittle down the number of meetings we have—remote or in person—don’t forget that face-to-face gatherings are still one of the essential ways we model leadership behavior and cultivate personal growth for those around us. Meetings are also how we cultivate working relationships. What’s more, some of my most memorable learning moments were insights created by thoughtful and productive discussion. 

Let’s face it. Good conversations allow us to demonstrate servant leadership by sharing the spotlight in meetings and enlisting input from others. Healthy exchanges also improve our outcomes and promote curiosity. Yet we have packed agendas and overloaded schedules, so our desire to run efficient meetings spills over into our mentality throughout the day. We risk modeling the behavior we don’t want from our teams.

Harvard Business School professor and behavioral scientist Francesca Gino surveyed three thousand employees from a wide range of firms and industries. She discovered only about 24 percent reported feeling curious in their jobs on a regular basis, and about 70 percent face barriers to asking more questions at work. This reticence with curiosity can stunt our growth in meetings and stifle the exchange of knowledge people have to share.

So what can we do about it? 

Hire for curiosity

Gino highlights a philosophy by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt whose motto was “We run this company on questions, not answers.” For instance, the company took an unusual approach to inviting applicants and once anonymously posed a puzzle on a billboard in Silicon Valley. People who solved it online arrived at a website inviting them to submit a résumé. While you don’t need a billboard budget, hiring with the end in mind makes it easier to model healthy discussions in meetings.

Model inquisitiveness

This strategy is a personal favorite. Those of you who know me are familiar with my passion for asking questions. My experience as a questioner has taught me that the outcomes are richer; I’m a better person for having asked. Gino underscores this idea by explaining that managers who want to simply communicate a vision rather than ask employees how they can be most helpful miss the opportunity to perform at higher levels. Plus, meetings become information dissemination (and email-worthy) rather than what they could be: productive discussions characterized by mutual respect and trust building. 

Set learning goals

Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Gino recommends emphasizing learning goals with everyone around you. Meetings are an ideal place to ask how team members are progressing with their respective personal growth. This can happen on a peer level too. Ask your colleagues about the books they’re reading or the weekend courses they may have enrolled in. When growth is part of regular meeting interactions, it sends a powerful example beyond what an email could accomplish.

With the rise in remote work, meetings are increasingly important as we try to model leadership and nurture growth. As someone who has benefited from observing communication, collaboration, and servant leadership in meetings—especially as a rising leader early in my career—I can’t think of a better forum for giving back. While you’re enjoying the perks of working from home, don’t forget to make the most of your meetings. They’re fast becoming one of the few ways we’re preserving culture, connecting with one another, and modeling terrific leadership.

LinkedIn has become one of my favorite forums for curiosity. I’m inspired by the constant flow of new and exciting ideas shared across industries and borders. Occasionally, I’ll contribute to a conversation myself. Why don’t we connect? Click here to follow my LinkedIn page.

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