6 Ways to Cultivate Wonder & Curiosity in Your Coaching | by Sarah Evans, MCC

Looking out of cave in iceland - showing awe & wonder in coaching

When is the last time you embraced wonder - truly marveling at and with the exquisite human being with their unique experiences, sitting with you in a coaching conversation?

Wonder and curiosity are an innate gift

One of the most powerful skills we have as coaches is a gift we're born with - a sense of wonder and an innate curiosity.

What memories come to mind of your own childhood sense of wonder and curiosity?

Naturally, children have a spirited determination in a world where anything is possible. Each moment is an adventure waiting to unfold. They are enchanted by simple things, viewing the world - and each interaction with it - with joy.

Children hold a natural engagement and can be fully absorbed in the moment. They are creative with abandon. They are endlessly curious.

Sadly, this gift is often dulled by circumstance and time

Simply transitioning to adulthood is enough for many to lose connection with wonder and curiosity as we struggle to manage many different tasks and perspectives.

And we also know that for many children, this natural way of being is lost in circumstances where they're not safe or where basic human needs are unmet. Restrictions, punishments, rules and restraints all serve to contain, stifle or diminish wonder and curiosity.

But there is good news!

The positive news is that the gift of wonder and curiosity is innately ours - and can be reclaimed.

Wonder and curiosity is a foundation of our coaching presence. It underlies our capacity for co-creating relationships, deep listening, generative powerful questioning, evoking awareness, and cultivating learning and growth.

"Wonder and awe bring us into the present moment and that unleashes our imagination, it helps us adjust our perception of time, it influences our decision making, it makes us more patient, more willing to help others…" 1

Wonder = the senses of awe and curiosity merged

Image of Italy taken from spaceI have been moved by the way astronauts speak of seeing the Earth from space. 2 

They speak of being changed - their relationships with self, others and the Earth are irrevocably transformed. Their descriptions are infused with humility, wonder and awe and a deep sense of connection to the Earth, its inhabitants and our shared humanity.

Psychologists call this the overview effect.

So researchers created a study 3 to define wonder and awe - as experienced by the astronauts - to determine if we can replicate these experiences.

And the answer is Yes! The authors of the study define wonder as the merging of two senses: "The first sense is closely tied to the feeling of awe; the second to the feeling of curiosity."

Wonder and Coaching

As we coach, we experience wonder when we encounter something that takes our breath away, where we marvel, focus our awareness and are held fully present in the moment.

And it's in this type of encounter that we recognize we're a tiny part of a vast universe. Our own agenda, needs and fears decline and our sense that we're part of a collective experience is heightened.

Wonder requires humility - we can't wonder if we already know.

So, as we engage with our coachees, we can offer space for inquiry and discovery with open generative questions rather than assumptions or 'knowing' .

It is here that we can then ask, 'How can we move through this space together?'

Curiosity

Our curiosity in coaching is stimulated as we experience wonder and explore, discover and learn together.

Interestingly, curiosity is akin to the Latin word cura or care.

In her 2018 Harvard Business Review article "The Business Case for Curiosity", Francesca Gino 4 notes that curiosity helps us adapt to uncertain conditions and external pressures.

Curiosity is also linked to greater tolerance, noncritical attitudes, unconventional thinking and initiation of humour and playfulness. 5

When our curiosity is triggered, we view challenges from different perspectives, we think more deeply and come up with more creative solutions. In fact Francesca Gino suggests that several times a week, we spend a few minutes in the morning reflecting on something we're curious about and something we usually take for granted.

Here are 6 ways to cultivate wonder and curiosity in your coaching

Person in cave looking out at the light -from Burst

  1. Embrace the concept of "beginner's mind". This term from Japanese Zen philosophy refers to young children whose minds are open to any and all possibilities. It's an attitude of 'unknowing' that supports learning.
  2. Access the overview effect.
  3. Develop an exploration mindset.
  4. Model curiosity and inquisitiveness for your coachee. Embrace your inner child's wonder and curiosity!
  5. Practice asking "I wonder…" and "What if…" questions as a way to harness the power of inquiry to support your coachee in making connections, to encourage exploration and to surface themes or patterns.
  6. Try Francesca Gino's practice: Several times a week in the morning, spend a few minutes reflecting on:
    • "What is one topic or activity I am curious about today?" and "What is one thing I usually take for granted that I want to ask about?"
    • Then identify how you'll approach your work that day with these questions in mind.
    • Finally, make sure you ask a few 'Why questions' as you engage in your work throughout the day.

Wrap-Up

I hope you've been inspired by this article on awe, wonder and curiosity.

As our coachees navigate complex challenges or leverage possibilities, we can use a sense of wonder, and engage with curiosity, as we partner with them in their exploration and discovery.

"Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder" E.B. White

References

1 Louis Schwartzberg. "Wonder & Awe" @ TEDx LA December 2016, posted January 30, 2017.

2 Read here how six astronauts describe the moment in space when 'everything changed'.

3 Gallagher, S. et al. (2015). The Neurophenomenology of Awe and Wonder: Towards a Non-reductionist Cognitive Science. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 22-23.

4 Francesca Gino (September-October 2018). The Business Case for Curiosity in the Harvard Business Review.

5 Kashdan, T.B., Sherman, R.A., Yarbro, J., & Funder, D.C. (April, 2013). How are Curious People Viewed and How do They Behave in Social situations? From the Perspectives of Self, Friends, Parents, and Unacquainted Observers. Journal of Personality 81:2. pp. 142-154 Read here

Sarah Evans MCC headshotContributing Author: Sarah Evans, MCC, PhD (cand.), Dip. CS, is passionate about working with visionary decision-makers and influencers inspired by the transformative potential of coaching. She is an executive leadership & team coach, facilitator, OD consultant, coaching supervisor, and mentor coach dedicated to supporting individuals, teams, and organizations lead and thrive in complexity. Her goal is to maximize human capacity, organizational capabilities, and contributions to societal well-being. Her key working themes are relationships, resilience, results! Visit her website here  and connect with her on Linkedin. Sarah is a member of the International Coach Federation, where she holds a Master Certified Coach (MCC) credential.

You May Also Like:

Image of Person in cave looking out at the sun by Christian Murillo via BURST

Image of Italy from space by Pixabay via Pexels

Image of Young child in field by Tuấn Kiệt Jr. via Pexels

Image of View from inside Icelandic Cave with Sunburst by David Mark via Pixabay

2 Comments

  1. Kabass Agbermodji

    This article has been very inspiring and helpful to me. Thank you for sharing. I am a trainee coach in the process of completing my certificate level.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.