How Senior Managers Think: Learn How to Handle the Tough Questions

Can you handle taking on this project?“ or “Why am I only getting these results now?” Tough questions like this can fluster even the most capable senior managers. The wrong reaction could seriously impact your career, so it’s important to handle these situations with great care. We’ve got some insight on how senior managers think, so it’s time to show you how to answer the tough questions, and keep your cool under fire.

Not everyone is gifted with poise under pressure – a sharp tongue and a quick temper could mean the end of your career, especially for those in senior management positions. To learn how to properly reply in frustrating situations, it’s in your best interest to study up on techniques and tricks. What’s most important here is to prepare yourself for a multitude of tough scenarios, so that you can best adapt and alter your reply for every possible outcome!

Stoic vs. Speechless - How Senior Managers Handle the Tough Questions

Avoid the Classic Mistakes

In the case of a verbal attack, silence is anything but golden. By choosing not to respond to someone’s insult, you’re silently conveying acceptance, or that their accusation is valid. Similarly, reaching for a cliche or stock response can make you seem insecure or like you’re at a loss for words. To repeat the negative phrases or concepts in a question is also a mistake, because it can reinforce the negativity of the situation.

For example, if someone asks, “Why does your presentation look so carelessly put together?” avoid the phrase “careless,” as this only draws attention to the phrase for everyone listening in. Instead, try to spin this critique. “Well, I was aiming for simplicity. Thanks for your feedback,” is a perfect reply to a sharp remark from a coworker. As a senior manager, you’re expected to maintain your composure, so stay calm and confident. Don’t get worked up, and you’ll avoid fanning the flame.

Prepare a Few Standard Replies

As a senior manager, you should never accept a blatantly aggressive attack from a colleague. Don’t forget your own expertise and accomplishments; remember that you have earned the respect of your coworkers. Instead, intervene immediately and prevent a tiny spark of friction from turning into a full-blown forest fire.

Ask your aggressor directly what his intentions are, and if there are any solid grounds for his accusations or remarks. Perhaps your methods are bold and new, and your critics make passive aggressive comments, like “That’s the way it’s done here, that’s how it’s always been done.”

In situations like this, ask the instigator directly: “Are these practices still working for us?” One of the most useful tools for conflict is to call your aggressor by name – this indicates that you respect him, and also takes away any comfort in perceived anonymity he may have.

Remember: tough questions are a great opportunity to improve soft skills, like conflict resolution and crisis communication. Staying cool in an otherwise tense situation is a major component of how senior managers think.

When you can arm yourself with a handful of useful tactics, you can effectively demonstrate your expertise and make sure to command the respect you deserve. As a senior manager, your ability to master handling tough questions will help your career by leaps and bounds.

The information for this article was originally found in the paper “Verbale Angriffe, kritische Fragen? Nie mehr sprachlos” by Rainer Newmann.

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