As the boss, people come to you every day looking for answers:
- “Should I offer this customer a discount to make up for our delivery delay?”
- “What do you think I should emphasize in my presentation?”
- “Wouldn’t it be smart to take Helen off this project, and give her role to Ben?”
- “I’m falling behind on the Acme proposal. Got any suggestions?”
People often expect their boss to have the answers – and right away!”
But let’s get real. You won’t always have the right answers – and sometimes you’ll won’t have an answer at all. Things come up for the first time, or when you least expect it and catch you off-guard, or when you’re preoccupied by something else.
Next time something comes up for which you have no thoughtful, straightforward, so-called right answer, respond by saying:
“That’s a great question. Thanks for bringing it up.”
Pause for a moment or two, as you consider possible answers. Who knows – maybe you’ll get lucky. If you draw a blank, ask them:
- “If you knew the answer to your question, what would it be?” …or…
- “If you didn’t need my approval, or I was unreachable for some reason, what would you do?”
Follow their answers with:
- “If we did that, what’s the best thing that could happen?”
- “What’s the worst thing?”
- “What’s the most likely?” and then explore things a bit more.
At this point, you’ll probably have three things:
- A good answer (you’d both agree)
- A sense of how capable the staffer is at problem-solving (good to know when assigning future tasks or projects)
- A staffer feeling a bit more loyal to you because you mindfully relied on their skills to come to the best answer.
One more thing…
If they ask a question you can’t answer, and it’s unlikely they could answer, simply admit you don’t know and add that you’ll find out and let them know.
- “Are we going to have the budget to hire a vendor to help with this project?”
- “Great question! I don’t know yet, but when our budget is approved by the end of the month, I’ll let you know.”