When leaders have the courage to admit they don’t know, this can have a transforming influence on an organization. Let’s face it – when a senior executive walks onto the shop floor, or the hospital ward, or the customer service department, the words “I don’t know” aren’t news. The front line workers already know what the executive doesn’t know. What this admission represents is a first step in a dialogue that leads to real answers, not fabricated ones.
It’s tough for managers to admit their ignorance though, because it may well be in their job description to know what is not possible for them to know. So the statement “I don’t know” is really an acknowledgement that it’s time to start doing things differently. It will be welcome news for workers who are tired of their knowledge being unrecognized and unappreciated.