Managers, It's Okay Not to Know Something

Joe Weinlick
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Being a manager is a stressful position because everyone expects you to have all of the right answers. Part of your manager responsibilities is to direct others. Some think you can't efficiently direct other people unless you know everything, but there may be times in your career where you just don't know the answer to something. Maybe the problem didn't involve your specialty or maybe you just aren't sure how to handle something. The best thing you can do is to admit you don't know.

Expecting to know everything there is to know in keeping a business going will create unnecessary pressure. Being a manager is stressful enough, but if you attempt to do something you're not sure about, that will only make you less effective. Also, if you try to hide your ignorance and act like you know everything, you will lose people's trust in you. When you acknowledge your own limitations, you make it easier for those who work for you to do the same. They will be less likely to be afraid to admit when a problem arises and something went wrong.

Companies hire different people with different skills and experience to perform certain jobs. Those with financial degrees can figure out profit and loss, while those in sales know how to compel others to purchase products and services. Being a manager lets you direct these individuals toward company goals. You surround yourself with those who know how to perform the job efficiently, but you do not have to know how to do the job for them. That's why they were hired to do their jobs; you were hired to do yours. There are some manager responsibilities you really need to know—such as delegating authority and involvement in decision making—but there are also things you do not need to know when being a manager.

Admitting you do not know something is better than pretending you do. Someone who has those actual skills and experience will know you are bluffing; this will simply lower your credibility at being a manager. When someone asks you a question you can't answer, it's much better to tell the person you can find the answer someone who does know. Don't lie or try to talk your way out of the situation.

Being a manager doesn't mean you know everything. It does mean that you know how to be an effective leader, and an effective leader knows when to simply say, "I don't know the answer to that. Even as a manager, you should be open to learning and asking for help.



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