No Answers, No Problem: A Guide to Confessing “I Don’t Know” at Work [With Video]

Written by Darren Kanthal

January 25, 2024

I don't know

Video Transcription:

For some reason, saying “I don’t know” has become unacceptable for leaders, and I don’t get it. I work with a lot of leaders, and somewhere along the way, they were taught either by an organization or previous mentor or another leader, or maybe it’s self-taught for some reason. But the idea of not knowing for some senior leaders is really like a straight-up no-no.

Who the Hell Has All the Answers?

When I talk to some of these leaders, they think that the expectation that others have of them, and even what they have of themselves, is that they have all of the answers, which really is ridiculous. I mean, who really has all of the answers?

Alright, well, I’m sure there’re some jokes in there. But I’m not going to wade into those waters. But the point is that when you don’t know, why not just say, “I don’t know?”

I mean, I think the flip side is a lot of people try to make up an answer and then kind of get caught in their own bullshit, and I think that’s worse. I think there’s an element of people who say, I don’t know, and then don’t do anything with it, especially when you’re in a leadership role. And I think the best answer is if you simply say, I don’t know, and I’ll find out, and when I find out, I’ll circle back with you. Something about that just seems so simple but under-utilized or under-practiced.

Just Say “I Don’t Know”

So my challenge for you, regardless of what leadership role you’re in, or maybe you’re not even a leader, is if you don’t know the answer, just say I don’t know. And I’ll find out, and when I find out, I’ll circle back with you. Good luck.

Darren Kanthal

Darren Kanthal, Founder of The Kanthal Group, is a values-driven leadership and career coach with over 20 years of experience in HR and Talent Acquisition. Darren is intensely passionate about helping mid-career leaders cut through the BS, do the foundational work, and achieve their greatness.


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