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Approach Leadership with the Curiosity of a Beginner

Approach Leadership with the Curiosity of a Beginner

In Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, Shunryu Suzuki says “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in an expert’s mind there are few.”

All too often, I’ve noticed leaders assume they need to know what to do and have all the answers. Could our actions be inhibiting our ability to develop trusting business relationships? Could the need to be an expert be stifling the organization’s ability to perform?

A recent conversation reminded me how easy it is to fall into the trap of trying to be the expert. My colleague just entered a new role. He was regaling the nuances of his new job. In a few short weeks, he was already speaking about all that was wrong with the company and its leadership. He was rolling his eyes at the thought of yet another business review, saying “What a mess.”

I wondered, had my colleague moved too quickly to judging without fully knowing the people or understanding the business? Would he and the company be better served if he had taken on a beginner’s mind versus acting like an expert?

The entry into a new role is a great time to approach the assignment with a beginner’s mind. It’s a time to be open to the possibilities for learning and connecting. It’s a time to explore and identify the best approaches to leading going forward.

It starts with listening and creating a safe place for others to share ideas. Remember, if you are talking and telling, there isn’t room for listening and learning. When we inquire, ask questions and engage people in a dialogue, new ideas can surface.

Seek to understand how things operate without the need to assess, judge, or make a decision. When comments don’t fit our way of thinking it’s easy to discount the information and stop listening. The ideas and suggestions may make us uncomfortable. But, if we listen with a beginner’s mind, it is possible for new ideas and thinking to emerge.

Stay a beginner and avoid the pull to step in and be the expert. If we’re too quick to step in, it can stifle the development and expertise of others. This misstep could cause missed opportunities in the future.

What are ways you stay open to the possibilities?