Yesterday, my 19-year-old daughter messaged our family WhatsApp with a new image – a rather red-looking tattoo she was bringing home from a trip to Peru.

I gulped. All my old-fashioned mum instincts came to the fore. Had she done her research about the tattoo parlour? Did she truly realise this was ‘forever’? What would future employers think of this image on her wrist? What, indeed, did it say about my precious daughter that she had a tattoo at all?

What my daughter's tattoo taught me about curiosity

Later, I went to meet her off the plane, and my brave, beautiful girl was wobbly and tearful. The airline had lost her baggage and she was already missing the friends she’d made and the glorious experience she’d had.

On the way home, after catching up on the highlights of the trip, she showed me the tattoo for real. It’s a delicate little thing. Two stick people dancing, with a star above them, full of joy and movement. She was delighted with it.

I realised I’d been deeply uncurious. I’d made my decision about her tattoo and what it meant the minute I heard about it. I’d decided ‘Mum knows best’ and if she’d been silly enough to ask beforehand if she should get it done, I would have passionately counselled against it.

But, really, what did I know?

So instead of stating my ready-made opinion, I got deeply curious and she told me all about it.

She told me how she and her friend had googled ‘best tattoo parlour in Cusco’. How they’d chosen their designs carefully. She told me all the ways in which this image represented her time there – the carefree dancing with her friends, the starry nights, the freedom she felt travelling across the world on her own for the first time. She told me that it only hurt 3 out of 10.

I’m so glad I kept my reservations to myself.

How curious are you as a leader?

Is this something that you do? Make up your mind about an issue before you’ve truly investigated? How often do you make decisions in your head about how things will be, or have been, before taking a deeper look? I know I’m guilty of it.

It’s so tempting when there’s masses going on and you’re under pressure. ‘Knowing’ can be quicker, less messy, and a whole lot safer – “Let’s just do what we’ve always done and things will be fine.”

But, the fallout from closing down your mind is massive. When those in charge always know best, you risk brilliant, creative team members keeping quiet. You risk stifling new ideas and innovation. You risk a whole lot of very unhappy, disengaged people who know they aren’t really valued. And, you also risk joy and excitement in your own leadership role.

What my daughter's tattoo taught me about curiosity

How to cultivate curiosity

‘Cultivate deep curiosity (and then more)’ is number four of seven approaches in a free new guide I’ve written for purposeful leaders which you can download here: ‘Seven Surprising Ways to Reignite your Passion for Work and Thrive’.

In it, I encourage you to devise a few disruptive questions which will stop ‘been there, done that thinking’. Asked regularly of yourself, questions such as the five below will keep you open to possibilities and opportunities, and help you question those easy, default ways of going about your work. You may have others.

  • What am I not seeing?
  • Where are my blind spots?
  • What am I doing that someone else could do better?
  • What if I did action x, y, or x instead?
  • Who might know of a great way to do this differently?

What’s next?

If you’d like more support on how to disrupt your usual ways of ‘doing’ and cultivate curiosity as a leader. My one-to-one Leadership coaching will help. Drop me an email or fill in the form below and I’ll get right back to you. And don’t forget to get your copy of the guide here.

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