On Tuesday during the weekly Twitter Association Chat conversation, known as #assnchat, the toping was, “If we know better, why not do better? and an interesting point was brought up. If the winds of change are blowing through your association (or perhaps should be) there’s bound to be a lot of questions and even some push back.

And as a point person in an association, people turn to you for questions all the time, especially if the change is happening in your department or was your idea. Many times the questions probably pretty easily answered, but occasionally, especially when it comes to changes and new developments, I bet you’ll get a real stumper. Whether you “should” know the answer to that or not, your response is simply, “I don’t know.”

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It’s easy to see how that response, especially from someone in your position, is embarrassing or perhaps dangerously close to an indicator that you aren’t doing your job correctly. But “I don’t know” is a good thing!

First of all, maybe it’s the phrasing. Change that absolute to a goal or plan. Instead of simply saying, “I don’t know” say, “Let me get back to you on that” or “I’ll look into it!” That way you’re owning the learning experience and making a move to be active in solving the problem. And let’s not even get into the dangers  of faking knowledge, blaming someone else, or straight up lying to save face. 

Also when there’s a gap in knowledge it indicates that there’s something that possibly needs to be known and researched. You can dig in yourself, or you can ask your members and board for help. You never know who has expertise in the situation at hand. Perhaps the question even calls for a brain trust of sorts, and who knows? Maybe the member with the answer isn’t super active at this time but tapping into his or her interest really gets them involved.

Finally, asking for help outside of the association can have huge benefits as well. You could meet a valuable partner or association advocate who will be incredibly valuable in years to come.

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