By Tony Schweiss | September 11, 2020

At The Gunter Group, the leadership traits and characteristics that define us are our Non-Negotiables: Collaborative, Integrity, Intellectual Curiosity, Thrives in Ambiguity, Emotional Intelligence, and Grounded Confidence. These traits and characteristics guide us every day in our interactions with clients, each other, and our community.

When I think of intellectual curiosity, I think of someone who is constantly yearning for new input and has a natural curiosity to learn and understand complex systems. Someone who is aware of their blind spots, has the motivation to seek out additional expertise when needed, and focuses on improving their decision making abilities.  

At The Gunter Group, we search for individuals who exhibit intellectual curiosity because this trait tends to be a significant indicator of someone who makes good decisions and thoughtful recommendations. Almost everything we do in consulting is about helping our clients make the most informed decisions possible, ranging from small-scale projects to strategic visioning.  

I was recently talking to a client about some challenges a potential client was having with Workday. They had already implemented the software but it wasn’t operating well—business units weren’t happy and were finding it difficult to agree on ways to improve it. Frustration was growing and their leadership team approached us, asking for process improvement and system configuration to resolve the issues. 

So, I got curious about their situation, wanting to dig into the root cause of the problem and determine the underlying causes of frustration. As we talked further, the CIO shared more about each business unit and their respective leaders. It became clear that they were unable to find consensus when it came to problems stemming from the application. Even when they could agree on WHAT should be done, they would disagree on HOW. 

Through a series of conversations, I helped the client pivot from the assumption that they had a Workday problem to a realization that their core issue was around decision making and governance. Now we are working with this client to address the root cause of their issues and it was my curious inclination that led to a solution which will have lasting impacts within their organization. 

On a more personal level, intellectual curiosity has been a recurrent theme throughout my life. My undergraduate experience was a function of my interest to rigorously investigate the philosophical roots of my own belief system. I found the most difficult program I could, one that would challenge me on multiple levels, and pursued it as a source of intellectual growth. My military career was punctuated by the sheer enjoyment I found in having to learn new jobs frequently. The life of a Junior Officer in the Navy was one in which I made frequent role changes in order to quickly learn how to effectively balance mission completion and shipboard life. 

And now, as a Principal Consultant and a Market Leader for TGG, managing work across multiple clients in multiple states, my career in consulting is still satisfying my thirst for knowledge because of the opportunity to learn new things with every new client engagement. Enjoying the opportunity to shift from client to client is one of the main reasons consultants enjoy what they do and that is certainly true for me. It fosters both intellectual curiosity and engagement with the work itself. I’ve always said that I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up; a sentiment stemming from curiosity in many different domains. Consulting is where my natural intellectual curiosity intersects with the real world and TGG offers the opportunity to grow and thrive in a constantly shifting environment. 

More about Tony Schweiss:
Tony builds teams to support strategic change initiatives and helps leaders plan for highly impactful change. Thriving in the face of complex problems, he brings clarity to ambiguous situations and organizational questions. Leaders quickly come to trust Tony as a partner in making their tough decisions. A former Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy, Tony’s leadership and management philosophy is tempered by a career of bringing calm and planning to high-impact, high-stress scenarios. His track record of success in defining and overcoming challenges in demanding environments has led to consistent portrayals of him as an outstanding manager and a leader among his peers. 

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