1. Hader, Richard PhD, NE-BC, RN, CHE, CPHQ, FAAN

Article Content

Not responding to an inquiry when you don't know the answer is a far better alternative than to answer incorrectly. Rather than giving a feeble reply, a leader should "circle back" to provide time to investigate the issue and give an accurate response. Attempting to answer questions when you don't have the experience or the right knowledge will make you appear to have a highly inflated ego and will disenfranchise your constituents. No one knows everything and you don't have to either!!

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

One of the first lessons I learned as a manager is that those whom you lead will be watching and listening to your responses and making a determination of whether they'll allow themselves to be led by you. Your ability to articulate clearly and accurately will be a key determining factor in building relationships and increasing the likelihood that you'll be successful in achieving your goals and objectives.


Relaying incorrect information or appearing to have knowledge and experience in something that you know little or nothing about will severely threaten your credibility and thwart your chances for success. Mastering the ability to politely acknowledge that you aren't familiar with the issue and need more time to investigate a response will illustrate your integrity and show that you, too, have vulnerabilities. Respect from your subordinates and colleagues will be garnished if you answer honestly and try not to respond inappropriately.


Leaders often receive complaints about the actions of their team members. The grievant often wants you to side with them and take immediate action against your team member. It's vital to understand that the old cliche that there's more than one side to a story is often true. When hearing a concern, an effective leader should be engaged in the conversation but offer minimal dialogue until a complete and thorough investigation has been completed. By acting prematurely in situations such as this, you may be criticized for not advocating for your staff and be characterized as a leader who isn't a champion for the team. Gather all of the information, think about the actions you're going to take, and then act accordingly.


Responding to your supervisor in a straightforward and conscientious manner will facilitate trust and perpetuate open and beneficial conversation. Often, your supervisor might be asking questions to spark your critical thinking ability and isn't expecting answers. The dialogue shouldn't be construed as criticism, but rather a developmental opportunity to begin to visualize situations in a different manner. It's important not to fall into a verbal trap by responding to questions without the time to carefully think about a response.


Most situations to which a leader needs to respond are complex and multifaceted. Carefully digesting the various components of your position will be appreciated by your constituents and earn you respect. However, if the situation needs an immediate and actionable response, you shouldn't hesitate to act accordingly and be confident that you're making the right decision based on your experience.


Circling back doesn't mean that you've retreated or failed. When in doubt, it's far better to make thought-out decisions based on sound intelligence rather than emotional reactions. Keeping your mood focused on a clear objective will benefit both you and those you lead.


Richard Hader

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.