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HR needs to get curious

In 2018, a study from Egon Zehnder identified that curiosity was the best predictor of strength in seven leadership competencies: results orientation, strategic orientation, collaboration and influence, team leadership, developing organisational capabilities, change leadership, and market understanding.

Having re-read that study recently, it occurs to me that curiosity is also essential for self-care and personal wellbeing. In fact, I would suggest that personal wellbeing should be added as a defined leadership competency too.

After all, without curiosity we lose the drive to question routines, to learn and to grow creativity. We lose the potential to truly grow into ourselves and push boundaries. If a leader loses that capability the reflection of that into the organisation they are heading up will quickly become apparent.

So, let’s start by considering curiosity in relation to physical health and wellbeing.

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Imagine if you got really curious about how your body works. What enhances its ability to perform and what detracts from it. Think about how you’re fuelling your body. What if you became more mindful about what you put into it?

If you have any form of medical condition, get curious and become the expert in that. Learn all that you can to support self-management of it. If you suspect that you might have a physical ailment or something like a food intolerance, go and get it checked out. These are basic things but it’s amazing how many people fail to act in a way that protects their physicality, even though it’s the most important vehicle we’ll ever own.

Consider this, how much money and time would someone invest in buying and looking after a car? How long would they own that car for? Imagine if just a fraction of that time and money was invested in maintaining their body instead.

For most people investment in maintaining physical belongings often comes before investment in their own physical wellbeing. The question to get curious about is: where does your money and time go? And what percentage of that money and time is devoted to improving or maintaining wellbeing?

Get curious about that and consider how comfortable you are with what you discover.

In his book, Think Like a Monk, Jay Shetty recounts the story of having to walk along the same path every day encouraged by his teacher to always look for something different that he hadn’t seen before. It serves as a reminder to see the freshness in each day and routine. Shetty observes that ‘seeing’ something is not the same as really ‘noticing’ it and this is a key differentiator, as truly ‘noticing’ the things around us stops us slipping into autopilot.

He gives the example of a group of students walking down a corridor to get to a lecture hall and then being asked where the nearest fire extinguisher is. Very few can answer even though they walk past several every day on the way to class.

Apply curiosity to those tasks that have become routine. Think about the things you do every day without challenge. Use your curiosity to revisit these things and challenge yourself to really ‘notice’ something new about them every day.

With this we have the potential to make new associations and challenge that which may no longer be in our best interests. This curiosity even in the mundane will help you stay fresh and to continue to grow every day of your life. Applied in this context, curiosity can only go on to help nurture and nourish our psychological and spiritual wellbeing too.

Although it’s not commonly defined as a predictor of strength in wellbeing, curiosity can play its part. After all, if we are not curious about our own health and we fail to challenge set practices and routines, how can we as HR professionals truly lead the way when delivering wellbeing initiatives?

Consider curiosity in relation to the leadership team of your organisation too. What can you see that the individual cannot see for themselves? And how can you hold up a mirror in a tactful way that might enable senior leadership to see how investment in their own wellbeing could cause ripples that extend across the whole organisation?

Consider this: how and where can you get really curious in the capacity of wellbeing? And, most importantly, how soon can you get started?


Karen Beaven is an HR coach, mentor and author


The full piece of the above appears in the January/February 2021 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.