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  • Writer's pictureKerryDawes

What do you do when you’re wrong or don't know the answer?

Updated: Nov 18, 2023




Simple, when you’re wrong or don't know. This is a vulnerable and difficult place for some of us to be in, but it’s a very important skill to grow as a leader in a digital business.

Our natural instinct, when we realise there is a mistake or problem, let’s be honest, is to deflect, pass the blame or try to cover it up. I know that sounds a bit too harsh, but try to be honest, it’s human nature. It comes from us trying to protect our reputation, for fear of being thought of as ‘less than’, or incompetent.


But, and trust me on this, the BEST thing you can do is admit the mistake error and work positively to resolve the issue.

Admitting the issue and recognising it means you can constructively move forward. There are problems, issues and mistakes all around us and when you’re on the receiving end you always want to know them upfront to avoid any embarrassing surprises. So as a leader, identify, recognise and confidently face into the issue. There are 4 key stages to overcoming these issues.

  1. Identify the problem

  2. Evaluate and assess possible resolutions

  3. Agree a solution moving forward

  4. Review and identify key learnings

The final stage is often the most important one as how we deal and learn from problems is how we grow and improve our teams and process. Finally, just to reassure you, how you deal with an issue is often the times where you build your credibility. I recently got asked “Where would you store encrypted data”.


The simple answer was “I don’t know, but I would go and ask the Security Lead”. I was concerned that this was a leading question to trip me up and whilst this may be not the answer they want, the ability to ask for help and admit when you don’t know something is a piece of self awareness that would go a long way.


One final note, just consider the consequence of not facing into the issue. It may get buried or overlooked in the short term, but the knock on impact may be significant. Could it lead to a data breach, would it could more in the future, will another team have to pick up the work? Sadly, the truth always comes out the earlier you can manage and address the issue, the better.


Remember being a good leader isn't having all the right answers but leading the team to find them.


Give it a go and see what reaction you get. Let me know the results, or examples where this hasn’t been followed.


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