Leveraging Curiosity as a Talent Coaching Strategy

Employee coaching

A key cornerstone of our talent coaching strategy here at Bright Horizons is the belief that employees are resourceful, creative, and ultimately experts in who they are and what they need to do.  In fact, this belief reinforces our values statement -- our HEART principles -- in so many ways, from encouraging accountability among our employees for their own decisions and careers, to fostering respect by seeing individuals as capable and whole.

When we wear a "coaching hat" at work, we want to help people make the best use of the resources only they have, to help them help themselves. But doing it well requires us to put aside our own assumptions, feelings, or agendas, and to resist the urge to feed the employees ideas and to solve their problems. This is where curiosity comes in, it gets us fully immersed in being interested in the "why" it gets us out of our own heads and puts the attention back on the employee.  When we coach as managers or HR professionals, our own curiosity becomes a powerful tool in investigating important information, and so maximizing the potential of our employees. In fact, you can see how coaching can not only help employees feel empowered, but also relieve us of the onus to fix everyone's problems and issues.

Curiosity to Fuel Your Talent Coaching Strategy

What might that look like?

An Irritable Employee

When your employees are irritable and unable to accept advice, it can make us irritable, it can also make trying to solve their problems an inefficient (and often frustrating) process that's like pouring water into an already-overflowing cup.  Instead, being curious and asking powerful questions -- "What matters to you about this?" or "What values do you believe are being disregarded here?" -- can give employees a chance to empty their cups in productive ways that creates space for them to receive input and possibly shift their perspective about a situation or issue.

An Impatient Employee

We all know employees who are ambitious and eager to move to the next step as quickly as possible. We want to support their drive and interest in growing, but we also know the organizational structure and the practical limitations of trying to jump ahead too fast. Getting curious about employees' impatience can help you understand its origins, and so help you keep people engaged in their jobs without necessarily moving into a new role.  Asking "what is important to you about this new role?" or "Can you describe a peak professional experience in your life?" can lead to uncovering alternative goals that can be creative and satisfying in the here and now.

An Employee without Initiative

A talented employee who lacks drive or appears apathetic can be really worrying, and create our own impatience about finding a solution. But instead of throwing out solutions or incentives to fix, ask open-ended question such as, "What's getting you stuck?" and "What gives you energy outside of work?" Such questions can encourage the employee to look at the issue without defensiveness.  It can also provide clues about what motivates these employees and where their passions lie.

Benefits for the Coach and the Employee Curiosity as a talent coaching strategy empowers coaches. It takes the pressure off of being a problem-solver, career-maker, experience-creator for employees. And it allows us to minimize the opportunity for our own biases to get in the way, and empowers employees to find the solution that fits them best.

Written by: Jessica Kaplan

About the Author

Jessica Kaplan at Bright Horizons

As Director, Talent Management, Jessica is responsible for connecting employees and management to the most effective learning and development opportunities offered by Bright Horizons. She also helps facilitate internal collaboration for organizational success. Jessica brings nearly 20 years of experience in professional development and higher education administration to her role. Prior to this role she held key roles in the Client Relations and Academic Partnerships teams. Jessica holds a Bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Tufts University, a Master’s degree in International Communication from American University and has completed PhD coursework in International Higher Education Policy at the University of Maryland.