How to answer questions

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Almost always in a professional environment, you will be called upon to answer questions.

These could be from:

  • Your boss
  • Your teammates
  • Your senior management

Each of these is an opportunity to show your credibility, knowledge, and ability. 

Want to know a hack? The more thoroughly you answer the initial questions, the more people will begin to trust your judgment, and the fewer justifications you will have to give later on. 

But how do you answer questions thoroughly? 

Most questions in a business context are asked to satisfy a specific curiosity. 

If you understand the curiosity behind the question, you can address it head on. 

This will leave the questioner feeling more satisfied with the answer than otherwise. 

Usually, the curiosity part gets left out or is vague because of a few reasons:

  • The questioner doesn’t know how to phrase the question
  • The questioner is unsure of what he doesn’t know and doesn’t want to embarrass himself
  • The questioner doesn’t want to embarrass you in case you don’t know the answer

This issue can be overcome if you already know the questioner’s incentives or motivations. 

Is he an operations guy who wants to know if his weekly forecast is still good? 

Is he a finance guy who wants to know if your monthly spending is tracking to budget?

Is he the CEO who wants to know if the project is tracking to expectations? 

Avoid answering in vague terms, and keep your answer focused on metrics. 

Be upfront with details, but avoid giving too much details in case it complicates the answer. 

For eg: “Hey, how is the project coming along?”

“It’s all on track.” – vague, untrustworthy answer. 

“Things are on track. As per today’s numbers, we are tracking on metrics X and Y vs forecast, but lagging a bit behind on metric Z. The gap is only xy% right now, so corrective actions may not be needed. I’m tracking it closely and will let you know if the situation changes.” – sharp, credible answer. 

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