How to Not Be a Curiosity-Killing Boss

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The FINANCIAL — A recent poll asked bosses if they valued and encouraged creativity. A healthy 64 percent said yes. Then the pollsters talked to their employees. Does the boss actually like it when you’re curious and innovative, they wanted to know. You can almost feel the eye rolls in the data — just 42 percent agreed their boss wanted them to be creative.

Many leaders, in other words, pay lip service to values like openness, innovation, and curiosity, but find that, in practice, they’re a pain in the neck. Who wants to endlessly explain things to curious employees? Won’t trying new ideas lower productivity? And how do you even get a bunch of free spirits all pulling in the same direction?

The result is the all too common phenomenon of a boss who praises curiosity and creativity and then reacts negatively when anyone actually displays these qualities.


Ask more and better questions.

Many bosses say they have an open-door policy for employees, but saying you value your team’s input isn’t enough. You actually have to walk out that open door and solicit that input with thoughtful questions. Gino gives the example of Max Zanardi, the manager of a luxury hotel in Turkey, whom she wrote about in her book, Rebel Talent.


Help employees broaden their horizons.

It’s hard to maintain curiosity when you’re doing the same thing day in and day out like a robot. That’s why Gino also suggests that, in addition to modeling curiosity, bosses should also try to help broaden employees’ interests.

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Cooking and art history lectures might not work for your business (though pretty much everyone loves a good potluck lunch), but the basic principle can be applied to any team. Creativity feeds on newness and authenticity, so any way you can think of to stir learning and genuine expressions of personality into the day is going to help your people be more curious. It will also make them more willing to come to you with whatever brilliant idea that curiosity sparks in them.


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