Three topics, in short order:

1. When you know who you are and what you bring to the table; when you know your strengths and acknowledge your deficiencies; when you know your role and accountability to your team and your organization, you’ll know there are times when it’s as important to say “no” as it is to say “yes”.

When are those times?

When you have more on your plate than you can reasonably be expected to manage, move forward or complete, given the when, what, and why of the assignment, say so.

Perform like a partner and offer alternative solutions to challenges that if allowed to continue unaddressed will become problems, most likely, yours.

2. There are times when it’s preferable to ask closed-ended questions and times when asking open-ended questions is the better way to go.

What’s the difference, why should you care and which to choose?

Closed-ended questions require a “yes” or “no” response, or a response that adds specific information to that yes or no. Examples are, “Did you order any books?” “Did you pay for the books?” “How much did the books cost?”

Open-ended questions ask for more than specifics. They ask for the “what” or “why.” For example, “What motivated you to buy the books?” “Why do you think others will be interested in buying the books?”

If you are interested in what someone thinks or why they care as much as they do; if you are interested in context, so you can better understand the situation and circumstance of what has happened or is likely to take place, ask open-ended questions.

If you are interested in facts without elaboration, collecting data that supports your assumptions or the conclusions you’re considering, closed-ended questions are the way to go.

Just recognize that there is more to an answer than what is expressed in a single word. Open-ended questions respect that complexity and your need to unpack and understand it.

3. When is it acceptable to not know an answer, when you’re responsible for knowing it?

That’s a question that especially plagues those who prize competence because knowing is who they are and what they do. Not knowing is for those less capable. Or is that so?

There are times when not saying what you know, in the moment, and taking time to re-think and re-frame an issue and your response enables you to give a far better answer than the one that sits top of mind.

So what’s your best response when no response is best? “I’ll get back to you on that by tomorrow, close of business.”

Just be sure that you do.

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