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Understanding & Living into Our CQ² ™

Approximately 35 years ago, we measured potential success by your IQ, or Intelligence Quotient.

In the last 15 to 20 years, our focus shifted. It shift from IQ to EQ – Emotional Quotient or Emotional Intelligence. Today, organizations are looking for what I call CQ² ™ – your Curiosity and Courage Quotient.

To move forward with purpose and power, we need curiosity and courage.

What is the Curiosity Quotient?

Curiosity is more natural than you realize. In fact, the older we get, the more we lose touch with our natural need to inquire and explore that which we do not know. When we lose touch with that curiosity, we lose touch with our personal power to innovate – to come up with fresh ideas, processes and solutions.  And, as importantly, we lose our ability to connect with others in deep and meaningful ways.

Curiosity can change the world. And it starts with you.

In 2010, Newsweek published an article entitled “Creativity Crisis” in which it cited research that preschoolers ask about 100 questions per day.  By middle school, the questions have virtually stopped – and so has much of our creativity and ability to innovate.  Your willingness to be curious about yourself and yourself in relation to others and varying situations, deepens your ability to show up authentically, be more fully engaged in your leadership and have more fun.

Unfortunately though, our curiosity can be one of our most fragile characteristics.

When we are in times of stress, chaos, or uncertainty, one of two things can often happen:

  • We move into frenetic activity because it makes us feel like we are doing something
  • We are paralyzed or procrastinate because we are afraid to make the wrong move

In those situations, we cannot jeopardize our curiosity. This is actually the time to ramp up our curiosity.  If we make a choice to take a step back and choose to lean into being curious about ourselves in each of the circumstances we find ourselves, we raise our level of awareness about ourselves in that moment, about our teams, about the situation and that situation in the context of the broader organization and marketplace.   We then have enough information to take constructive action that moves the situation and ourselves forward.  Curiosity takes us out of the quagmire and that sense of being “stuck”.

Curiosity has the power to put us in the place of having more of the right information to take calculated risks and make more courageous choices.  To lead with curiosity is to set the tone for yourself and others that it is not only okay to explore and seek alternative points of view, but also the catalyst for innovation and growth.

Because of the lightning speed at which change occurs, crucible moments are growing in frequency and in intensity.  It is in these moments that your curiosity will be tested.   Which is why strengthening your curiosity quotient is not only helpful but non-negotiable. 

Strategies for Strengthening your Curiosity Quotient

  • Deep reflection: It is reflection that leads to discovery and insights resulting in new ideas and action.  Maintain a practice of reflection to gain radical awareness about:
    • Self:   Who you are when you show up as your best self.  What values, strengths and passions do you bring?  How are they alive and well in the work you are doing?  What triggers you?  What do you do about it?
    • Others:  Did you put yourself in their shoes? Leverage their greatest strengths?  Provide expectations as well as on-going guidance and feedback?  Did you find out what they care about?
    • Situation:  What and why it happened:  Did you have enough information?  Ask the right questions? Explore causes from kick off of a project team, to idea generation, processes for execution, deployment of resources, delivery of the product and/or service.
  • Willingness to explore: Go back to your favorite childhood question with a sense of awe and wonder and ask “why”?
  • Full presence to others: Be present in conversation with an emphasis on learning more about them than telling them about you.
    • People learn as much or more about how “smart” we are by the thoughtful and provocative questions we ask than by the information we share.
  • Play: The power of play at work has been documented many times over.  It is the part of our brain that plays with abandon that is the same part of our brain that supports our curiosity and ability to create.  How much fun are you having as a leader?  How much of your right brain muscle are you strengthening? How is that impacting your team?

When you strengthen your curiosity, you also strengthen how you distinguish information from knowledge and intelligence from wisdom. 

It is curiosity that inspires.  Partnered with courage, curiosity will contribute to your differentiation in the marketplace and your ability for sustained success.

What is the Courage Quotient?

Author Neale Donald Walsh coined one of my favorite “truths” of all time – “Life begins at the end for your comfort zone.”   To step out of our comfort zone takes great courage.  Where we are with our comfort zones vary.  What doesn’t vary is that it takes courage to step out of it.

Aristotle called courage the first virtue because it is from courage that all other virtues follow. If that is the case, we must be our own most powerful advocates for strengthening our courage.

But what is courage?  Courage is the distinction between fear and reckless abandon.  Courage, as Susan Jeffers said, is “feeling the fear and doing it anyway” having leveraged your curiosity to ensure that the risks you are taking are strategic, calculated risks.

Acts of courage don’t need to start with the biggest decisions.   We begin to develop and hone our courage quotient in the little things we do starting with learning to crawl and walk.

Honing that courage quotient is recognizing and reflecting on when we have been courageous:

  • What did we do?
  • What was our thought process? 
  • What were the things we took into consideration? 
  • What was the impact? 
  • How did it make us feel?  How did we celebrate?

We witness or experience courage in a lot of different forms.  There is physical courage which we often see and hear about in life saving events.  There is intellectual courage which pushes us to take an alternative point of view or to open our minds to alternative points of view.  It requires thinking boldly without the fear of judgement from others that may come along with that bold thinking.  It is saying what others won’t say.  And there is ethical courage – standing up for what is right even in the face of major opposition or loss of an opportunity.

When we experience these types of courage, we create a natural blend that allows us to live into our greatest potential.

Strategies for Strengthening your Courageous Quotient

  • Radical self-awareness:  As with curiosity, it takes great courage to commit to radical self-awareness.  We are going to like some of what we see and we are not going to like other images of ourselves.  Curiosity is a willingness to take a look.  Courage is a willingness to act on what you see.
  • Be clear about your core values:  Check in with yourself to ensure that your actions and decisions are in alignment with your core values.  Are your core values so alive in who you are and how you show up that others can name them?
  • Know when to talk and when to listen:  It takes great courage to speak up.  It will take even greater courage to just listen fully and openly.
  • Seek and share feedback:   Stay away from the temptation to surround yourself with conformists. Look for those who are curious, and willing to explore and share alternative points of view.  At the same time be willing to take an unpopular stance, raise challenging issues, make difficult decisions, and face challenges head on including providing difficult feedback.
  • Dare to be bold: Balance the bold with reasoned judgement, and you’ll feel a new sense of courage and confidence.
  • Let go: It takes great courage to trust your teams to do what they were hired to do.  Delegate with intention, create capacity so that as a leader, you can focus on the broader strategic challenges of the business
  • Pioneer something new: Feel the fear, and do it anyway.

Curiosity and Courage Create Possibility

In the coaching and leadership development work that I do, I have the privilege of watching what happens when a leader with great curiosity and courage, steps out of their comfort zone and into the unknown. 

James** was a client who thought of himself as invisible in a room – particularly a room of leaders more senior to him.  As we began to work on what might be causing fear of speaking up and what it would look like to emerge as a leader in his own right in that same room, he became more curious about what was getting in his way and more courageous about how to change it.  As he took small steps to speak up sooner in meetings, to share an alternative point of view, to be curious about the conversation, to ask questions that actually changed the nature of the conversation and the ultimate course of action, his confidence grew.  As his confidence grew, so too did his courage and so did his contribution and personal power.   It started with curiosity about what was getting in his way and ended with growth, possibility, and greater credibility as a leader through courage.

Alice Walker wrote a book entitled We are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For. For leaders, that title holds great truth, great promise, and great responsibility.  In these turbulent times filled with crucible moments we get to make a choice – every time.  We can become overwrought with frenetic activity.  We can procrastinate. We can become paralyzed with fear. Or we can live into our innate gifts of curiosity and courage to create lives that support meaningful work and great possibility with remarkable and sustained success. 

The future lies within you.  Be curious. Be courageous.

NOTE: ** acknowledges that Angelo has changed the client’s name.