It can be easy to assume that the sign of being a great leader has all the answers; However, often the opposite is true. No leader knows everything, but great leaders are always ready to learn and grow in their knowledge, and often have ways to find the answers they need.
As successful leaders themselves, the Young Entrepreneur Council members understand these points, as well as how hard it can be to accept when you know nothing as an entrepreneur. Below, they share their insights about how you can answer a question when asked a question you don’t know the answer to and why these are the best answers you can give.
Young Entrepreneur Council members share tips for answering questions you didn’t know.
Photo courtesy of individual members.
1. Be a Candidate
It is important for leaders to have candid conversations. Being a leader is not all about having answers. It’s about the humility to admit that you don’t know the answer; It’s all about wisdom, knowing where to look for information and advice; It is about having a cold mind to make decisions based on limited insight; And it’s about having a passion for trusting and working with people who know the answer. I will follow these in my response. Be candid and say that you don’t have the answer, but suggest where you would like to see it, your reasoning for solving the question, and the people you trust to help. – Daria Gonzalez, Wonderdogs
2. Confirm your understanding
Verify before answering and then be honest. Ask if you understood the question correctly. If your understanding is correct, and you know what to answer, move on. If not, be honest and tell them that in order to comment on the matter, you need to do a thorough research. While it’s important for us to know the answers to the questions we’re asked, it takes so much humility and understanding to know when to back off and say you don’t have the answers. True leaders show authenticity even in tough days. Later, study thoroughly to avoid these issues again. – Daisy Jing, Banisho
3. Give a Follow-up Date
The best way to respond involves honesty. When a leader doesn’t know an answer, they can practice effective communication and be clear about when they will follow up. Recently, a staff member asked me about a process that my team had not developed, and my response included a date (in the future) when the process would be created and reviewed. When I communicate clearly and effectively and add actionable steps, I make those around me feel safe. — Libby Rothschild, Dietitian Boss
4. Offer to find the answer
There’s no shame in admitting that you don’t have all the answers. Humility is an important quality of a good leader. If you’re asked something you don’t know, the best thing to do is be honest and say you don’t know. Then, offer to know the answer. If you’re not familiar with a topic, ask someone on your team to help you. One of our core company values is teamwork. Everyone is uniquely talented. Individually, we are few pieces of the puzzle, but when we come together, we can see the whole picture. As a leader, my primary role is simply to coordinate; That’s why I always tell my team that I’m the top learner in the group (which is true because I learn a lot from my diversity). Being honest and humble will show you are a leader who is willing to grow and learn. Which will inspire others to do the same. – Tonica Bruce, Lead Nicely, Inc.
5. Ask Someone Else
The best way for a leader to answer a question they don’t know is to ask someone else. A leader can ask members of his team, find out on Google or ask one of his employees who has the required skill set. The latter option is the best because you are getting an informed opinion from someone who knows what they are talking about. If I don’t know the answer to a question, I’ll follow one of the three options mentioned above. –Kristin Kimberly Marquette, Marquette Media, LLC
6. Work Through the Questions
Be honest and say, “That’s a really great question, and I don’t know how to answer it.” From there, work through the question. Is there anything else you can ask? Is this something you need to give some thought to? Why can’t you answer the question? once you Doing Find an answer, circle around it. where did you get the answer? Why do you like that answer? The more transparent you are with the people you serve, the more likely you are to respect them and be willing to go above and beyond for you. –Ryan Dowdy, Uncensored Consulting, LLC
7. Let Them Know You’re Actively Researching
Say, “I don’t know the answer yet, but I’m actively researching what the correct answer might be.” An entrepreneur has always been thought of as having all the answers. As entrepreneurs, we make our own way in the world. As leaders, we create answers. By being transparent about the fact that you don’t have the answer, but you are actively researching, everyone takes peace in knowing that you are still leading them. It also brings a sense of relativity because we all know how it feels to not know the right answer, but keep looking for it. Being an entrepreneur showing an element of human emotion is rarely a bad thing. – Mary Harcourt, Cosmoglo