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How to answer questions from left field

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

When you’re stumped by a question that comes out of nowhere from a reporter, shareholder or staff member, use these responses:

1. Say you’ll find out. If you don’t know of the incident or fact you’re being asked about, tell the questioner you’d like a chance to look into it before you reply.

2. Talk about what you do know. Say, “That’s not clear, but here’s what I know right now.” If it’s really not your area—you’re a financial chief and they ask about a manufacturing process—say, “I’m not an expert on that,” and call on the right person.

3. Give them the big picture. Say, “I can tell you that we take those criticisms very seriously.” Or “Whenever we learn about a potential flaw in the system, we take apart the whole process, step by step, and figure out how we can do it better.”

Or “We aim for overall accuracy in our projections, and for every example you give of an incorrect forecast, I could cite many more that we got right. Virtually every professional organization cites our data as among the best in the world.”

— Adapted from The Media Training Bible, Brad Phillips, SpeakGood Press.

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