I don’t know

Just 3 small words. Words that a lot of people are too scared to say.

“Will it make me look stupid that I don’t know”?

This is what most of us ask ourselves when in a meeting with our colleagues, boss, client when a question is asked. Often, we try to fill our minds with online books, quotes and experiences just in case.

However, in my experience as a leader, these are 3 great small words.

As a leader we don’t know everything. We are not meant to know everything. We can’t know everything.

So why are we fearful of saying them? It can actually help us in so many ways.

Being a leader means that we are vulnerable. Saying “I don’t know” displays your natural vulnerability. It will mean our team sees us as someone who is not infallible. It gives them the freedom to also be vulnerable and say “I don’t know”. The freedom in these 3 words is huge.

I am not saying that you throw your arms up in the air when someone asks you a question in a completely aloof manner, but to be honest and if you don’t know then don’t pretend; yes, do your research when required and feedback when the answer is required.

Also, saying “I don’t know” enables our team to take responsibility for finding out the answer for themselves. This has opened up so many new avenues for the team; no longer are you the blocker or bottle-neck, you are now developing a team who will take responsibility for their own learning and mistake-making.

In your next meeting, discussion, 1-2-1 with someone I would urge you to not being afraid to saying “I don’t know, but I will find out” or “I don’t know, why don’t you research and let me know your thoughts”.

There are powerful lessons in these words.

Have you ever been in a situation where “I don’t know” has or has not worked for you? Do you think these 3 words shouldn’t be in your vocabulary? Please let me know your comments/thoughts on how you have or intend to use these words in your next meeting.

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