Updated: May 11, 2022
When I was a teenager in my high school economics class, I remember my teacher telling me one day that she was going to give me a "3 question limit" each class. She was partially being cheeky and also somewhat annoyed at my relentless curiosity to explore another angle.
It is a given children have a naive curiosity that tests us by asking "Why" so many times we sometimes crack. But, as a teenager, its almost as though my teacher was telling me "You are no longer a child, Jacqui. That's enough with the questions." And so I did ask less questions. However, whilst in leadership development workshops with performing artists, I learned this little phrase: "I notice...what if?" These incredibly talented choreographers, conductors, actors and dancers reminded me of the role curiosity plays in coming up with spectacular solutions for performance. Clearly this was something I'd lost touch with. We seem so driven by efficiency gains and optimisation that we lose sight of the creativity required to catapult us into a new way of “succeeding” especially given recent events. Admittedly, my own striving for excellence (or even the dreaded perfectionism) occasionally gets in the way of taking some risks by asking the naive question. Luckily, my kids remind me to take their lead more! My hypothesis is that these critical qualities are the very things that will lead to the outcomes organisations (say they) seek: innovative solutions, higher profits, talented diverse people, protecting the planet...the list goes on. So I’m going to conduct a little experiment - to test if there may be any ripple effects in sharing what we notice and then curiously putting something out there as a question for exploration. I welcome your feedback. It could be something that triggers a response in you work-wise, personally or interpersonally, spiritually, physically, emotionally - anything! Please leave me a comment!
I notice…vulnerability is beautiful. My ears often perk up at the faintest expression of vulnerability. I detest the know-it-all and find the humble human who openly expresses her struggles quite captivating. At the same time, I have never been one to express vulnerability with ease. Ever considered that one thing that you pick up on about others? Ever asked why your antennae are so tuned to that thing? That’s because we see in others what we struggle to acknowledge in ourselves. For me, I have a strong blockage to owning my vulnerability - I don’t like to ask for help. I don’t do well to say I’m struggling or I don’t get it. I spent months in corporate budget meetings wondering why they were spending so much money to only see a return in 5 years time. Turns out I wasn’t the only one grappling with that question - but none of us felt safe to express the question due to fear of showing our vulnerability or ignorance in not knowing something.
What if... we did just name it? If we overcame our fear of looking stupid in favour of connecting to others who may feel similarly? Our shared humanity. Do we go for saving individual face or connecting with others and creating that sense of belonging to the tribe of those curious to learn? Clients often tell me about how much they want to foster innovation and yet at the same time are fearful of showing vulnerability in getting it wrong. How do we strike the right balance of creating the conditions for experimentation and learning whilst keeping the lights on with what we know? Humility is a great place to start: saying “I don’t know.” Yet why is it so hard to express it? Brene Brown has a lot more to say about this than me , and many of you reading this I’m sure are familiar with the legendary research of BB. If not, have a look… https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_the_power_of_vulnerability Perhaps we can reframe our idea of leadership from being the one who knows and gives the answers, to leadership as equipping others to test the possibilities, share their struggles and encourage learning along the way. Starting with: I notice....what if. Role modelling this will encourage others to do the same. Here are some other questions to consider as you get you going:
What do you notice?
Who else can we connect with to shed more light on this?
What might we not be seeing/ considering here?
What if we turned this on its head - what then might we do?
How do we know this to be true?