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How to Handle Questions When You Are Not Sure | Communication Strategy for Leadership Success


 communication for leadership success

How do you convey confidence when you are not confident in the answer?


1. CHECK YOUR MINDSET


Walk into conversations, meetings, and presentations wanting your audience to ask you anything they want. Release the desire to control the conversation. Remind yourself how much you know about the topic. You don't have to have an answer for every question. You want the audience to feel smart, powerful, appreciated, and high-principled. You want them to ask questions. It means they care about your topic, and they are listening. Walk into the interaction thinking, "ask me anything you want".


2. USE STRONG VISUAL CUES


Visually, we read confidence in open body language, slower movements, heavier movements, more stillness, and extended eye contact. Remind yourself to hold eye contact with the person who asked the question before looking at others. Avoid scanning the audience or fidgeting. Move like a panther, not a scared chicken.


3. USE A LOUDER VOLUME AND A FLUID SPEAKING STYLE


When you respond, aim to speak in a legato style - not staccato. Take the time to complete the words, so the final consonants are heard. Do not rush. Imagine your are speaking a ballad, not a pop song. When the question comes your way, take a 2-3 seconds to inhale, collect your thoughts, and speak your response on a supported exhale.


4. IMPROVE THE WAY YOU SAY, "I DON"T KNOW":


There are more eloquent ways to say you don't know the answer than, "I don't know." Imagine a supremely confident speaker saying these sentences:


  • "We are not ready to share that information."

  • "It is too early to make a decision."

  • "Rather than give you incomplete information, let me get back to you."

  • "We do not have that information, what we do know is..."


5. PREPARE WELL


The most difficult questions are the ones asking for details on an unexpected topic. When leadership is not speaking to you day-to-day on a topic, it is likely they will ask an unexpected question. Keep your style steady. Step back from your topic and look at common questions leadership could ask you. Practice these with a colleague or a communication coach.


Leadership Team Questions:

  1. How can we innovate without increasing resources?

  2. Why should we continue investing into this?

  3. What is your proof that this will work?

  4. How does this initiative fit into the broader strategy?

  5. Why has there been so much delay?

  6. Why wasn't this communicated in advance?

  7. What is the timeline and budget for the project?

  8. How do you plan to fix this?

  9. How much do we have to spend to be sure this is resolved?

  10. How are we doing compared to other companies?


There will always be uncertainty in big efforts. There is always a way to be confident through the uncertainty.


Leaders are shining a light on the path forward. Leaders must keep the light on through the uncertain moments. If the light goes out, the efforts lose momentum, sponsorship, and start to fail. When you can think well on your feet and handle questions with ease, you are role modeling strong communication strategy for leadership success. Use these techniques to keep people moving forward through uncertain moments in initiatives.


By Stephanie Bickel

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Developing communication skills is easy when you work with Speak by Design. We work with emerging leaders around the world to help them master the art of communication strategy for leadership success. We offer private coaching, group training, Speak by Design University, and Communication Coach Certification. Contact us today to learn more.

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