When we accept roles, “I don’t understand” or “What are you talking about?” can prove hard words to say. We fear that if we admit our ignorance, people will assume that we’re disconnected, weak leaders.
At such times, it’s tempting to fake it, or to listen and hope that what we hear will fill in the gaps in our knowledge. Most often, that’s a mistake. Admitting a lack of knowledge actually makes you look stronger in your team’s eyes, not weaker … if you do it in the right way:
- Ask for clarification. Say, “I need to be brought up to speed on this issue.”
- Don’t direct blame elsewhere by saying, “Why didn’t anybody bring this to my attention before?” Instead, adopt a collaborative tone, stressing that reviewing the issue will help everyone. In fact, it will.
- Ask for a formal briefing, with documentation, in a follow-up meeting.