kc2“I don’t know.” Seems easy enough to say, but I can’t tell you how long it took me to learn how to own up and say those three words.

When young in your career, I can understand not wanting to admit that you are not familiar with something. Not knowing means I’m not qualified. The big test is how you handle the moment when someone asks you a question and you honestly cannot think of the appropriate response. In the past, I have made up stories, talked around the answer, and changed the subject – all without realizing that I was frustrating those doing the asking; and in addition I was insulting my own intelligence.

This doesn’t just pertain to leadership or your career… I have gotten into so many conflicts with loved ones causing so much heartache and stress simply because I was completely steadfast on not confessing to not fully understanding something. Now, I’m proud to divulge that it was my husband that finally broke me…when I finally said “I don’t effing know!!” He yelled back, “that is the perfect answer.”

Again, this does pertain to leadership and to your career. As a leader, you’re prompted with these questions all the time. As a business consultant, clients pose these questions to me all the time. You’re pressed for your knowledge, you’re the expert in your field. People expect this knowledge; it’s why they askedyou.

So, it’s ok if you don’t have the right answers, and it’s certainly ok if you don’t have the right answers right away! Now here’s why…

You have resources. As the expert in your field and as a leader, you ought to have resources on hand to utilize in order to answer a question. Instead of saying I don’t know and leaving the issue on the table, respond with “I don’t know, but I know how to find out.” It shows honesty to admit that you don’t know; it shows that you’re an expert in your field to have the proper resources; and it shows care and effort when you seek out an answer on someone’s behalf.
In a recent article by Inc.com, the column further delves into professional ways to say, “I don’t know.” Feel free to read it. This business consultant’s advice: it’s an excellent resource when you’re stuck saying, “I don’t know.”

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