Friday, September 26, 2014

I don't know

We all get put into tough situations. It's part of our job as IT leaders to get asked the hard questions, to solve the big problems. In higher education, this happens all the time; faculty ask for help on projects or research, or ask "why" and "how" questions about how technology can help them. When someone presents a really tough issue, I find it's best to take a step back and work with them through the issue. How can we make this a more strategic solution, something that solves your problem but will work for others, as well. Through this partnership, we build a relationship based on trust.

Likewise, if I don't know the answer, I try to find a way ahead. I never want to say "We can't do that" or "I don't know." On this topic, Selena Rezvani writing in Forbes discusses Five Alternatives To Saying "I Don't Know," to avoid getting stumped in front of an audience. Use these openers to keep moving forward:

“Let me be sure I understand which information you’re looking for…”
From the article: "It also allows you to hear more details of the issue at hand so that you can react to a smaller piece of the puzzle rather than one large, ominous request."
“Based on what we know today, my thoughts are…”
Rezvani suggests that "By framing your response this way, you convey to your listeners that you have a limited understanding of the topic, but that you’re willing to make an informed guess."
“That’s a timely question, because I’m currently gathering XYZ information…”
"As you return from vacation, let’s say, and are getting up to speed on what happened in your absence, it’s fine to convey that you are “in the process” of getting informed."
“I can answer that in part, but would like to consider it further and get back to you.”
"Postponing giving a full answer—until you have all of the facts—can buy you credibility."
“Great question.  I’m just not familiar enough with XYZ to hazard a guess.  Let me connect you with…”
"Gently explain why someone else is the better go-to person and set a timeline for contacting the right people or uncovering the information."
photo: Hilary Perkins

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