3 Things Good Managers Say Instead of "I Don't Know"

6 years, 2 months ago - February 27, 2015
Although you may feel that you need to give an immediate response every time someone runs into your office with an issue, this is a critical first step to take: Stop. Seriously. Don’t rush to give just any answer. And though it feels tempting, avoid saying “I don’t know.”

What feels like a conclusive statement to you actually sounds like ellipses to your team. It leaves them hanging and creates more questions.

When you reach these critical moments, pause, collect yourself, and consider these approaches:

1.“I don’t have the information I need to give an answer. I’ll find it.”

In retrospect, when I’ve said “I don’t know,” it has been because the situation was new—software that I had never used, projects and stakes that I had never encountered. In those moments, though, I could have taken a moment to evaluate the data from past projects that had similar deliverables or challenges.

For example, if the question from a team member is, “How much time should I devote to making this storyboard?” and I’ve never made one myself, I can still be helpful. Rather than saying “I don’t know” or deferring to “Use your best judgment” (which sometimes feels like a cop-out), I can refer to the hours that we’ve tracked for past storyboards and how long clients took to approve them. This gives a range for the expected time and, most importantly, provides guidance and support for the team.

Even if it takes time and research to find the answer, do it. Your team will trust and respect you when they see that you’re committed to helping them.

2. “Let’s have a quick brainstorm.”

The creative process works best when at least two minds can riff of off one another—together, you can often devise more solutions together than were possible separately.

So, take five minutes to connect with your colleagues and run a few exercises (like these) to clear the mental blocks you may be having. Even if your team members are asking you because they’re less familiar with the project or issue than you are, brainstorming can still be effective—in fact, their perspective as “outsiders” may bring fresher thinking. In either case, in addition to creating more options for solutions, you also create more collective ownership of the outcomes among the team.

3.“I know an expert who can help with this.”

Of the three approaches I’m sharing, this is the toughest because you are plainly admitting that someone knows better than you do. But rather than causing concern (or doubt in your abilities) by saying “let’s escalate this,” you’re still showing confidence that an answer can be found.

Senior managers or company advisors with specific knowledge can be great resources. You could even share it with mentors in your own network—remember, they’re not exclusively there for emergencies (this isn’t Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?), but as a “board of directors” for areas in which you’re not as strong.

Remember, no one expects you to know everything. Having a wide pool of resources to draw from when necessary will inspire confidence among your team.

In times of uncertainty, remember that leadership doesn’t mean always having the answers. It means always being committed to finding them.

Text by The Daily Muse

We also recommend

Tags Cloud
2010accidentsadvertisingAfrAsiaafricaagroAir Franceair mauritiusAirlinesairportairway coffeeAlvaro SobrinhoamazonAmeenah Gurib-FakimAMLandroidApollo Bramwellappleappointmentsappsarrestasiaauditaudit reportaustraliaaviationawardsBABagatelleBAIBangladeshbankbanksbarclaysbeachbeachesBeau Bassin-Rose HillbetamaxBOIboko haramBollywoodBOMbombingbpmlBPOBramer BankbrazilbrexitbudgetBusinessCanadacanecareercareer tipscasinoCCIDCCMCEBcementChagosCHCchinaCIELcigarettesconferenceConfinementCongoconstructioncontestCoronaviruscorruptionCourtCourtscouvre-feuCOVID-19CPBCPEcreativitycrisiscruise shipsCSOCT PowerCultureCurepipecustomerscustomsCWAcyclonedamDawood RawatDBMdeficitdenguedevelopmentdoctorsDomaine les PaillesDPPdrug traffickingdrugsDTAADuty FreeearthquakeebolaecoécoleseconomyEducationEgyptelectionselectoral reformelectricityEmiratesEmtelenergyENLentrepreneurshipEUEuropeeventsexamexamsexpoexportfacebookfairfarmersfeeFIFA World CupfinancefinancesFirefishfishingFlacqFlic-en-FlacFloodsfoodFootballforecastforeign workersFrancefraudfruitsFSCfuelfunnyGAARgamblinggamesgazaGermanygooglegovernmentGRAgreengreen energyhackershajjhawkershealthhealthcareHeritage Cityhistoryholidayshorse racingHospitalhotelhotel businesshotelshow toHRHRDCHSBCHSCIBLICACICTICTAID cardillegal fishingIMFimportindiaIndian OceanIndonesiainflationinfrastructureinnovationsinsuranceinternetInterviewinterview tipsinvestmentinvestmentsiosiPadiphoneiraniraqIRSISISisraelITItalyjapanJin FeijobjobsjournalismKenyalandlawlawslayoffsleadershipLepeploanslocal governmentLockdownlotteryLRTLufthansaMadagascarmalaysiamalaysia airlinesmanagementmanagement tipsmanufacturingmarketmarketingmarketsMauBankMauritiansmauritiusMBCMCBMCCImeccaMedical CouncilmedicamentsmedicineMedPointmeetingMEFMESMetro ExpressMEXAMicrosoftMIDMIEmigrationminimum salaryminimum wagemlMMMmoneymoney launderingmotivationmoviesMozambiqueMPAMPCMPCBMRAMSCMSMMTMTCMTPAMusicMV BenitaNandanee SoornackNarendra ModinatureNavin RamgoolamNavind KistnahNCBNDUnetworkingNew Mauritius HotelsNHDCNigeriaNobel Prizenorth koreaNTCNWCCofficialsoffshoreoilOlympic GamesOmnicaneorangeOUMPakistanpalestineparliamentPaul BérengerPhilippinesPhoenix Beveragespicture of the daypiracyplagePMPMOpmsdPNQpolicepoliticsportPort LouisPort-LouisPravind JugnauthPRBpricepricesproblemprostitutionprotestspsacPSCpsychologyPTRpublic servicequatre-bornesrainsRakesh Gooljauryratingsreal estatereformsrepo rateRESrestaurantsresultresultsReunionriceroadsRoches-Noires caseRodriguesRogersRose-HillRoshi BhadainRussiaSAJsalariessalarysalessamsungsaudi arabiasbmSCscamscandalscholarshipsSchoolschoolssciencesecuritySeychellessharksshootingshoppingshopping mallSICsicomsingaporeSITskillssmart citysmartphonesSMeSMEDASobrinho casesocial mediasocial networks & messengerssolar energysouthsouth africasouth koreasportSportsstartupsstatisticsstatsSTCstrategystreet vendorsstrikestudysuccesssugarSun Tan caseSunkai casesyriaTAtabletsTanzaniataxtax heaventaxesteaTECtechnologytelecomterrorismtextilethailandthefttime managementtipstourismtradingtrainingstransporttrendstunaTurfTurkeyTVtyphoonukukraineunemploymentunionsuniversityuomUSUTMvacanciesVacoas Popular Multipurpose Cooperative SocietyVacoas-Phoenixvarma casevegetablesVideo of the DayvisaVishnu LutchmeenaraidooWaterWaterparkWeatherWhitedot Casewi-fiWMAWorld BankXavier-Luc DuvalYEPzimbabwe