Written by Kristin Harrington

There’s a famous scene from the show Ted Lasso where the main character, Ted, is playing darts against a rival who assumes he is terrible at darts and makes a large bet against his talent.

Amidst the game, Ted references a quote by Walt Whitman: “Be curious, not judgmental.” He continues: “…all of a sudden it hits me. All them fellas that used to belittle me, not a single one of them was curious. They thought they had everything all figured out. So they judged everything and everyone. I realized that they were underestimating me…’Cause if they were curious, they would’ve asked questions. You know? Like, ‘Have you played a lot of darts, Ted?”

He proceeds to hit bullseye after bullseye, decisively winning the bet.

Throughout my life, I’ve experienced significant periods of being more judgmental than curious. Rather than asking questions and listening attentively with a desire to serve and support, I asserted my opinion, relied on my expertise, or made assumptions based on limited information. The result? Alienating my colleagues rather than inspiring them.

As I navigate the post-pandemic world, I’m reminded that too many of us are acting from a place of judgment rather than curiosity. We dedicate most of our thoughts and dialogue to ourselves—our needs, our challenges, our dissatisfactions. We complain about the workload, our bosses, the stressors around us—you name it. We judge others rather than engage in curious dialogue. I write this from a place of pure empathy. I’m often just as guilty. I understand why we’re more judgmental than curious these days; we’re tired and burned out.

Here’s the interesting thing—the antidote to our burnout isn’t inward; it’s outward. We’ll never feel better by focusing more on ourselves or making judgments about those around us. We’ll only get to a better place by embracing genuine curiosity about others’ lives and showing up with an attitude of service in response.

Here’s what I’ve learned about the importance of curiosity:

Shift from judgment to curiosity. Challenge yourself to replace judgments with questions. Instead of making assumptions about your colleagues, ask about their experiences, perspectives, and challenges and listen attentively to their responses. Seek to understand rather than to judge. This shift can foster a more supportive and collaborative work environment.

Focus outward to combat burnout. When feeling overwhelmed or burned out, try redirecting your focus outward. Engage in conversations with a genuine interest in others’ lives and needs. Practice asking questions that begin with “what” and “how.” This outward focus can provide a refreshing perspective and help build stronger connections.

Lead with empathy and service. Embrace an attitude of service in your interactions. Leading with curiosity is an act of kindness. By prioritizing the well-being and development of those around you, you not only enhance their experience but also create a more fulfilling and energizing leadership journey for yourself.

We all risk losing the game of darts because we’re too focused on our own skills to care about anybody else’s. Leading with curiosity changes that dynamic, allowing us to connect, understand, and inspire those around us.

Founded in 2004, Lead Star is the company behind New York Times best-sellers SPARKLeading from the Front, and Bet on You. Lead Star supports professionals to reach new levels of success through its innovative coaching programs.