The Power of “I Don’t Know”

Posted by David Grossman on Mon, Nov 28, 2016

For many of us, the words “I don’t know” are like kryptonite: a sign of weakness. 


In reality, the ability to say “I don’t know” can be a hidden strength. Particularly during times of change, we need to be honest, straightforward and timely in sharing what we know—even when there are open issues and/or there’s much that’s still hasn’t been decided.

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At the same time, our team members see right through attempts to deflect or dance around an issue. So what do you do when you don’t yet have the answer? Acknowledge it. Say, “I don’t know…but I will work to find out and let you know as soon as I have an answer.”

tweet-button-2015.pngOur team members see right through attempts to deflect or dance around an issue. #Leadership #Trust @thoughtpartner

This approach says two things to your team: 

  • You’re confident enough in your leadership to admit when you don’t have all the answers
  • You’re trustworthy and committed to your word to get back to them with an answer

The next time you’re stumped, take a deep breath. It’s ok not to know—as long as you come back later with an answer. In fact, your team will trust you more for your honesty. 

What’s getting in your way from saying, “I don’t know?”

—David Grossman


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