great organizations hire, train and retain high cq talent as shown by man standing in board room window

I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.

Winston Churchill

In a previous post, I made the argument that Intellectual Curiosity (CQ) should be one of the top 3 – Go or NO GO criteria for hiring, training and retaining talent for your organization. For senior the roles, the level of Intellectual Curiosity (CQ) is one of the strongest predictors of a leaders’ success and effectiveness. Intellectual Curiosity is not just critically important; it is a “must have”. I have rejected great candidates that have checked every box on the role requirements list but lacked a sufficient level of Intellectual Curiosity. Frankly, I would expect to be rejected as a candidate for any senior leadership role if I did not clearly convey Intellectual Curiosity as one of the key strengths I bring to the table.

Intellectual Curiosity is consistently defined as one’s deep and persistent desire to know: one’s desire to invest time and energy into learning more about a person, place, thing, or concept. I have seen this desire quantified as a person’s (CQ- Curiosity Quotient).

I recommend you create and execute a strategy to recruit, train and retain talent based on Intellectual Curiosity in all levels of your organization.

Hiring High CQ Talent

When I interview a candidate, I am always testing and looking for high CQ’s. While you can find dozens and dozens of “intellectual curiosity assessments”, I do not subscribe to any assessment as an exact science. I believe it is too important a “must have” to outsource the decision. As a leader, you have to own the responsibility and accountability. Leverage assessments as an additional data point but trust your investigation, experience and instinct. There are some simple tools anyone can use to investigate a candidate’s CQ.

  1. Ask the right questions
    1. Tell me about something you have taught yourself in the last six months? What process did you use? Were you successful?
    2. What is the most interesting book you have read in the last six months? Why did you find it interesting?
    3. What interests you about our organization? What advice would you give me about our… marketing, branding, sales, finances?
    4. What would you like to be doing here in the next 3 to 5 years?
    5. What do you see as the organization’s biggest challenge over the next 3 to 5 years?
  2. Evaluate the Candidate’s Questions

    Carefully listen to and evaluate the questions the candidate asks for both quantity and quality. Is it a well thought out, thoroughly researched original question that you have to engage your brain actively to answer? Or is it one of those canned questions that you get when you Google “List of Questions to Ask at the end of an Interview.”

Retaining High CQ Talent

High CQ talent tend to fight both the status quo and a closed and nontransparent culture. There are very specific steps you can take to help retain high CQ employees.

  1. Hire high CQ leaders – they promote an environment and culture of openness, constructive debate, and transparency. They like to involve as many big brains as viable in the strategy and decision-making process.
  2. Reinforce learning as a core value and sponsor both formal and informal learning opportunities.
  3. Increase opportunities for employees to work on task forces and project teams outside their everyday job to expand the scope of their world.
  4. Sponsor an informal mentorship program that will allow high CQ employees to gain insights and understanding beyond their current role.
  5. Create a reward and compensation system that includes learning as a variable.
  6. Create an environment where smart, well-researched risk taking is rewarded… even if it ends in failure.
  7. Adopt the concept of After Action Reviews (AARs) – I was introduced and immersed in the concept and practice of the After Action Review while in the military. AAR’s were a critical and mandated part of life in the 82nd Airborne Division and U.S. Army Ranger School. For the military, it’s simply a highly structured process to help provide soldiers and units feedback on mission and task performances in training and in combat. AAR’s identify how to correct deficiencies, sustain strengths, and focus on the performance of the specific mission. I continued to use and adopted the AAR process in my corporate career.

In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists

Eric Hoffer

Leadership is Learning and Learning is Life and Life Never Stops Teaching. Learning and the willingness to learn will be the cornerstone with which you will build your personal leadership style. Caught up in the maddening speed of business, we sometimes forget we are students of life and it continually provides learning opportunities.

However, it is up to each of us to expand on those opportunities by ferociously seeking knowledge throughout each day. With that in mind, I challenge you to read everything relevant to your own personal craft and your position. Each day, I invest time and energy learning and developing my craft. Not sure where to start? I can understand that. After all, there are literally thousands of great books out there just waiting to be cracked open. So here are a few of my favorites to help you get started:

I would like to leave you with a few parting thoughts. There is no other single action you can engage in to take the limits off your leadership potential than ferocious learning. Have belief in your ability to learn, invest the time and energy in yourself to learn, and dedicate yourself to the mission of learning. If leadership is your craft, then seek to be a Master of your craft, understanding that true Masters are lifelong students and the only way to true mastery is through teaching. Find someone (inside or outside your organization) with high potential and high CQ and mentor them. It will make you both better leaders.

There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

Live Without Limits!