Leadership Nudge® 361 – Say I Don’t Know

August 25, 2021by Sandy Wilmer

Saying “I don’t know” is hard. It’s important for leaders to model this behavior, paving the way for others to say “I don’t know.” This creates a learning environment.


It’s hard to say I don’t know. But as a leader, it’s very important to be able to model that behavior. So, it’s okay for your team to say, “I don’t know.” Let’s watch as some fake football fans get exposed by talkSPORT. And you’ll see how hard it is for them to say, “I don’t know.” 

“If it’s in one of the foreign bodies, do you think he’s too big of a personality for Everton?”

“No, I think that you’ve got to find the balance. And I think you got to be able to talk correctly to your teammates and impose yourself on the game. So, I think if his football’s as good as his talk, then I think he’ll do well.” 

“Simon Jordan, he’s taking a bit of stick himself. Everyone’s saying he’s got a dodgy Barney. I mean, what do you make of it?”

“I like it. Yeah. That’s not too bad.” 

“Nice quiff?” 

“Yeah. No problem with the haircut, and a lot of time on it. You know, a lot more than me that’s for sure. Yeah.” 

“Yeah. We’re in the same boat, mate.” 

So we can make a whole story about a made-up person. But we can’t admit, hey, we don’t know. We don’t know, I don’t know is the start of all learning. If the leader can admit, I don’t know the team can admit it.  

It’s socially unacceptable. And therefore, we pretend to know, as opposed to actually just getting on with things and saying, Yeah, I don’t know. Or even I’m not sure. And then hey, let’s, let’s look it up. Let’s run an experiment. Let’s find out. And it’s the key to all learning and getting better.  

So here’s your nudge. Find a couple times this week to say to your team, hey, I don’t know. Even if you know – that’s the key. Even if you “think you know.” This is what I want you to say. “Hey, yeah, I don’t know” or “I’m not sure. Let’s check it out. Let’s look it up. Let’s see if we can find out.”  

I’m David Marquet. That’s your Leadership Nudge. 

Sandy Wilmer