Stop asking for advice
Have you heard frustrated leaders complain, “I gave them advice but they didn’t listen.” Someone said, “Asking for advice suggests you’ll take it.”
Here’s some advice on getting advice.
Always use the plural.
The trouble with the term “advice” is it sounds singular. You can’t say advices.
Rather than asking for advice, ask for suggestions. For example, try saying, “Do you have any suggestions for dealing with Mary’s lack of follow-through?” When you say, “Do you have any suggestions?” you invite a discussion.
Rather than asking for advice, ask for options. For example, try saying, “What are some options that might solve this procedural bottleneck?” When you say, “some options,” you invite a discussion.
After receiving one suggestion, ask for another. You’ve just created a dialog.
Ask for someone else.
Begin your search for “advice” by saying, “I’m asking two or three people for their perspective on this issue.”
After receiving “advice” from one person, ask them if they can suggest others who have experience in the area you’re exploring.
How do you elicit “advice?”
What do you do when you receive “advice” that seems wrong?
Advice isn’t plural:) – that’s great! I had never thought about that. This is a great topic Dan. I have come to think that there’s a touch of arrogance to giving advice (especially unsolicited). It is often what the advisor would do for himself/herself and there can be a certain sense of righteousness about it.
I do agree with eliciting advice for the purpose of dialogue and broadening the related disucssion by saying things like, “I will greatly appreciate your input on something… “and “I’d be grateful for your wisdom here…” etc.
When advice seems wrong, I think it’s fair to name it i.e. “That doesn’t quite resonate for me – thank you though” Or, ” That’s one way of looking at it though it doesn’t quite sit with me.”
Thanks for the good word.
They say unsolicited advice is always perceived as criticism. I think “they” are right.
Thanks for adding your dialog creating sentences. They expand the conversation.
Best to you,
I elicit advice by comparing sources. I rely more on source for information. Reliable source gives lesser chance to question the credibility. Reliability comes from self experience, people opinion, and social and organizational status carried by the source. On the other hand, unreliable sources provide wider chance to question, analyze and apply the advice. Suggestions provide more flexibility in terms of application, judgment, and analysis, whereas advice is more like a rule that you suppose to follow. And in case you don’t follow it, you might not possess second chance to ask for advice. However, in case of asking for suggestions, you have full liberty to ask as many time as you want. Asking suggestions, open floor for debate and discussion but asking advice closes the door for discussion.
When I receive advice that is wrong, I do not ask the person again because I lose faith in the person. This create a negative perception about the person. This might not be always the case but surely it breaks the trust.
In case, suggestions go wrong, it do not break trust because it is still open for discussion. So, it is a parallel kind of communication flow that usually do not affect relation. In advice, it is always top down approach, so feedback is missing here. I also believe that suggestion and feedback are complementary whereas it is not obvious in advice.
You’ve added both breadth and depth to the conversation. Thank you.
In particular, your suggestion to carefully chose who you ask for advice really helps. When you add the idea that seeking suggestions keeps the door open both in the relationship and for further explorations, you create a healthy work environment where it’s safe to seek counsel from those above you.
Best regards to you,
Ajay is a featured contributor on LF. Read his bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/ajay-gupta
My friend says ‘If you want advice, ask for money, if you want money, ask for advice’.
He is speaking in terms of dealing with a prospect or a referral partner.
I never forgot that advice 🙂
Sounds like good “advice” to me. I think asking for suggestions, insights, feedback, and input compliments the person you ask. It opens them to relationship with you.
Best to you,
Alan is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read his bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/alan
Interesting insight – it’s almost like saying that when we ask for advice we’re saying, “I can’t solve this problem…what should I do?”
The founder of my company once said something to the effect of, “Don’t ask me for advice – come to me with options, and ask for feedback.” I think this makes a lot of sense – it helps to create ownership for the solution in the mind of the person asking for help.
I try to use this approach whether I’m the one giving or seeking “advice” or “suggestions.” If I’m the one seeking suggestions, I’ll first come up with a few ideas of my own, which I can take into the conversation. If someone comes to me for suggestions, I try to make my first question “What have you considered doing?”
Love this sentence: “Don’t ask me for advice – come to me with options, and ask for feedback.”
The down side of giving someone options is you may pollute their thinking and hinder them from thinking creatively. However, when approaching someone over you, your quote is helpful.
Some may also depend on the relationship you have with the boss. If you are friends, it may be easier to sit and talk through options. If you aren’t, a well prepared approach makes sense.
Thanks for adding value.
Best to you,
First, I would like to commend your wife on her fine name-drawing skills. I am very much looking forward to the book!
On advice, some of the better advice I have received was in written form, maybe because the writer had time to think through his/her response and craft it differently than a face-to-face would allow.
In a face-to-face situation, I probably have expectations that are impossible to fulfill – I hate it when someone immediately starts offering up solutions instead of asking questions to explore further, but I find myself backing off emotionally a bit when the person starts asking good questions. I suppose for some of us, we need to get ourselves in a particular place mentally (a place of readiness and humility) in order for good advice to take hold.
And when the advice seems wrong, it’s critical to listen to that intuition. If the person who gave the advice asks, respond honestly that the advice simply did not seem ripe or a perfect fit at this time, but with gratitude for the advice that was freely given in the first place.
Congrats on being pulled from the hat.
Your comment offers me some useful tips for this conversation.
1. I hadn’t thought of written “advice.” I can see it working in some contexts. Email may be a way to get this type of advice although setting the context of your situation may be cumbersome.
2. Always ask before stating. Which is more about giving than receiving. However, I agree with you completely, when someone rushes to give advice before asking questions, I am turned off.
I’ll offer anther idea for when the advice seems wrong. It may be right. As Ajay says, consider the experience of the source. 🙂
Best to you,
Paula is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read her bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/paula-kiger
“Good advice”. I have used the approach that you wrote about and it all does go well when there is open discussion and people feel included on what needs to be done or said.
Thanks for your encouraging words.
Best to you,
This is so timely. I usually focus on the advice givers perspective and now you have me thinking about it more fully. Thank you! We must think alike – used the same photo for similar posts. You might like mine about the brain-science of advice and what to offer instead — even when people ask you for advice. All my best. http://brillianceinc.com/why-brains-hate-advice/
Thanks for stopping in this morning. I do like your post. It’s very informative. Thanks for leaving the link.
There are too many leaders that do not ask for advice for a number of reasons, ranging from thinking they are the smartest person in the room to thinking their followers expect them to have all the answers.
I like your “asking for suggestions” approach. It invites those being asked to suspend their defense mechanisms for a moment.
How do you elicit “advice?”
Ask questions for understanding.
What do you do when you receive “advice” that seems wrong?
Ask more questions for clarity, then move on if not satisfied.
BTW, just finished the “Best Ideas Win” session. Thanks for making us aware of the G5 Leadership. Interesting session. Recommended.
Jim, were you in this morning’s session? Me too!
Still am reviewing my notes on it…sound info was presented.
Indeed, I was in this morning’s session. I agree with you regarding the “sound info.” The G5 process is very similar to Ackoff’s method known as Interactive Planning, which goes like this – begin by Formulating the Mess, Creating an Idealized Design, Developing the Means to act, identifying the necessary Resources, Implementation Design and Designing Controls for monitoring progress.
Have a safe day Doc…Jim
What is the quote?..’let me give you a piece of advice…never give or take advice.’
Giving advice…hmm, probably not unless asked first. (see quote at end)
An easy way to ask for advice, which also models good openness, ‘can you help me with something?’ or ‘I need another perspective’ which is similar to your options approach. The other obvious way to ask is…”I have a friend who…” 😉 This also gets back to our listening thread…even if you have options or ideas, if you have sought others’ counsel, then you probably need to be listening more than speaking.
If you hear something not aligned with your perceptions, style,approach, etc., appreciate the perspective and maybe own that would be more challenging for you to do right now, but will certainly consider it.
“It is more easy to be wise for others than for ourselves.” ~François Duc de La Rochefoucauld
I am late coming to this party tonight yet I must say I love your ideas of asking for suggestions and especially telling people you are asking more than one person. This sets the expectations and referrals flow.
I add one suggestion to this discussion: For tough problems, ask for “insight”. So often what stops us is our own vision. When you ask for “insight” it prods people to help you see things from other angles.
I think some people look for “advice” when actually they want approval. So their solicitation isn’t meant to open a dialogue but rather a pat on the back or something along those lines. Then they aren’t going to follow through with what they are given because that isn’t why they were there to begin with.
I ask for feedback when I’m looking for opinions from others on my issue/concern/document, etc. and I usually attach a timeline to it. (mainly because I’m asking busy people, and I understand that my request usually isn’t top priority). I try to be good about always thanking contributors even if I don’t implement their suggestion. I don’t pretend to know everything, but hearing from others ensures that I get multiple perspectives and have an opportunity to respond in a well-thought out and meaningful way if it comes up again.
I agree with you, Christy, that the asker isn’t always ready for/looking for constructive suggestions – they want a rubber stamp of a plan they already have. I struggle with this in my relationships with other parents who rant about how their children are being unfairly treated, in situations where in all honesty the child could probably solve the problem him/herself and/or the parent is being hypersensitive. (And admittedly I have my share of helicopter parenting moments myself!). These friends do not want me to say, “Have you considered why the teacher said x, y, or z?” “Do you know what mandates they have been given by their administration?” “Is it possible your child holds some responsibility in this situation?” Sometimes it’s just better to keep silent!
to get advice, i say: “i want to talk something out with you…[talk]…what do you think?”
or “talktalktalk…and [person] was telling me about this tactic or fact…”
I like to collect different points of view, too. I also consider the source and try out what fits my skills best.
Your points make very much sense, but I wish everyone was humble enough to know when they need suggestions in first place.
It’s increasingly harder to find people who are not arrogant to believe they are the know-all and to admit that, indeed, sometimes two minds work better than one.
We always counsel the leaders we work with to stop giving advice! Although direct reports sometimes need a quick direction, there is a great benefit in turning the conversation into a facilitative coaching session. When a direct report comes to you with a question like “What should I do to solve x issue,” our first instinct is to blurt out the best solution our experience has lead us to. But when we take a step back and ask “What do you think would be the best solution?” or ask questions to help them get to the heart of the problem, we find this creates more engagement in implementing the solution. The direct report created the solution, therefore they own and trust in it.
Thanks for leaving your first comment. Great content and powerful illustration of the power of not giving advice.
The Socratic method as long as it doesn’t feel like manipulation goes a long way in developing others.
Don’ ask me for advice is a statement which came when you grow certain level and give level of independence to others. What i mean by the statement mentioned above is that this is a phase of growth where the leadership style is such which draw people to be completely open up. But in many leadership style this does not work.
I agree that this is the best way to communicate when you say, i have couple of point to share with you, why don’t you see.
I actually tweeted a quote on this today. The younger generation has a tendency to seek advice from those who have little or no experience. They also take advice from those who have no real interest of investment in their life. I always suggest soliciting advice from those who have a vested interest in your decision and care about how it tuns out. Just a thought!