When leaders speak, they influence people around them using the speech. Whether it’s a conference and the room is full of people or there is just one person speaking with them in the office, they are always able to persuade to take action. This task becomes more complex when people ask tough questions in front of others. In this case, the leader has to prove he or she can handle the pressure and provide a good answer.
Answering difficult questions is one of the keys to presenting yourself as a confident leader, so let’s learn how to do it in this article.
- Do Some Preparation Work
Many public speakers try to predict some of the questions they will be asked during an interview (many of us are doing it to prepare for job interview, too). In other words, they prepare themselves to come up with the best possible answers.
Of course, this is a tough thing to do, so communication coaches propose to organize the questions into categories. By doing so, a leader can create a good answer for each category and have something to focus on.
The title of the category is the trigger that determines to which one of them a question belongs. For example, let’s suppose you have three categories: sales, marketing, and manufacturing. If during the interview someone asks you why sales figures from the last quarter were low, you’ll know that have an answer prepared for that.
- Discuss the Question Instead by Giving an Answer
In some cases, the people asking the question there is no singular answer for. Communication coaches suggest that they are simply looking to have their question discussed or determine whether you know about an issue and you’ve been thinking about resolving it as well. Or, they may want you to acknowledge the issue.
Question: Why is not the company doing much to address the previous quarter’s sales figures?”
Answer: “I would not say that we are not doing anything because we have appointed a new manager of the sales department and launched a new ecommerce website. At this point, we’re trying to figure out what went wrong, and we have done a lot to address it.
Question: Why are you frustrated with the latest sales figures?
Answer: What’s given you the impression that I’m frustrated?
- Limit Your Response to One Aspect of the Question
Many of the questions leaders have to answer are really complex and multifaceted. This technique is often used by essay writers to help the reader to better grasp the main idea and leave out irrelevant details. Whether you don’t want to address some of the aspects or simply don’t know the answer, you can focus on some part you are comfortable speaking about.
Question: Your company has been suffering losses for the second consecutive month, what issues have you discovered? Can people be demoralized due to a possible resignation of the marketing director?
Answer: Our marketing director is not going anywhere. In fact, I’ve played golf with his yesterday and we had a good time. Have you had a chance to hit the range this year? (ending the answer with a question helps to move the focus of the conversation away from the aspect you don’t want to answer).
- Use the Bridge Technique
You should be familiar with this one because you probably heard politicians using the bridge technique on the news. With it, you build a bridge from the question to what you really want to talk about.
An example of the bridge technique: if a politician is asked about their position on the healthcare system, they answer: “the healthcare reform is certainly an urgent issue our country has to address. But what I really want to address right now is that tax policies my opponent has been talking about.”
While the technique is great for answering tough questions, you should not use it to dodge important ones with because many people will not appreciate the lack of the answer. However, you still want to go with it, make the transition as smooth and unnoticeable as possible. Example:
Question: “What do you think their decision to work with you will be? Given that your prices are considerably higher, they can easily choose another supplier.
Answer: I agree that the price is one of the determinants in this case. But what about quality? The main advantage of our products over the competitors is high-quality of manufacturing. When they see the quality of our products, they will agree to work with us.
- Whatever Your Answer is, Don’t Lie
A true leader gives true answers. Using a lie to answer a question is the worst thing you could do. Just remember the recent Volkswagen emissions scandal featuring the fraudulent software that was designed to cheat on U.S. emission tests. Then-SEO of the company Martin Winterkorn was accused of providing false statements to the public. He resigned under a tremendous public pressure and allegations.
In case when you don’t have an answer, you should just admit it.
- Pause to Give Yourself More Time to Think About the Answer
Answering a lot of questions can be confusing and exhausting, so make pauses to think about what you will say. This does not mean that you should make long sounds like “errr” or “hmm.” Instead, you can ask to clarify the question or repeat it.
- Sometimes Straightforward is Best
In some cases, a straightforward question is the best one to give. For example, if someone asks you about how are things going, you can answer with: “Well, I had a flat tire yesterday, so my evening was pretty much a bust. How was your evening?”