Secrets to Getting Great Advice
Honest, trustworthy, insightful advice comes hard.
Some tell you what you want to hear others tell you what they need to say. How can you dig through a cacophony of voices and find great advice?
Options or insights matter. When you’re seeking options go to someone who’s been there. When you need insight go to someone who sees.
Options come from those who listen and make suggestions. Insights come from those who listen and say it back in new ways.
Experience matters more when you’re seeking options. Curiosity matters more when you need insights.
Some advisors talk more; the ones with unique experiences. They have answers. Other advisors listen more; the ones who clarify issues and provide insights. They help you find answers.
Options come when they speak more. Insights come when you speak more.
What type of advice are you seeking? Is it strategic or visionary? Are you working on execution or policies? Do you need insight into relationships? Categories determine advisors.
Right questions elicit great advice.
Know yourself and your organization before asking “Why.” Why questions are toughest because they’re rooted in values. If you don’t know your values you’ll take the wrong advice, even when it’s good.
Ask more “what” and “how” questions, lots more. Experience shows that “why” questions frequently distract unless you’re seeking the root of a problem.
“What” and “how” questions create light-bulb-moments.
How can leaders find great advice?
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Why questions are informational. They don’t offer much to the person looking for a better way. In fact, asking them a “why” only keeps them stuck in the past.
What questions are about discovery, possibility, and moving forward.
As an executive coach, I do my best to ask “What” questions most of the time. Not the easiest thing to do. To get better, you need to practice every day.
I used to “why” things to death. Like you say, “why only keeps them stuck in the past.” “Why” is often a backward facing question.
I get some push back on placing “what” over “why”, its understandable because “why” can be about purpose. In that case it’s invaluable. However, I’m spending much less time on figuring out root causes and more on creating forward movement. Why is more about causes…what is more about moving forward.
Thank you for sharing your insights,
I believe it is very important to have the understand of root causes. How can you effectively move forward from a problem without an understanding the root cause of the problem. By isolating the root cause, it is my belief that you can make effective change rather than simply making change for the sake of change. This belief is likely driven by the fact I am in a process driven profession (accounting for hotels).
You are so right. Uncovering root causes is useful. The issue is how do we find root causes? I’ve found moving forward with “what” questions often illuminates root causes. Forward movement illuminates. I’ve also found that seeking root causes without focusing on forward movement is frequently futile and dissatisfying. I’d much rather ask “what’s next?” than “Why did that happen?” There are implications of “why” in “what’s next.”
As always, thank you for sharing your insights. It means a lot to me.
I like the ideas of insights and options. Speaking more opens options and listening more opens insights.What is insightful ideas. I like the statement that we should know ourselves and organizations before asking Why. I feel, it is better to know organization first. By knowing organization, I mean its people, practices, culture and key success factors to get position in the hierarchy. It provides a broader picture to understand and evaluate oneself whether one can stay for shorter or longer period in the organization.I also believe that leaders can find great advice by knowing source. They need to know the credibility of source. But it is more important to evaluate oneself with advice with open mind. Openness and acceptance opens options to improve. I think, great advice are generally values based. It focuses more on building values, strengthening relationship and outstanding performance.
While reading your comment today, I started thinking about the advice we might want to quickly reject. It’s new or perhaps uncomfortable.
The advice we want to reject should most likely be seriously consider. Advice that already makes sense is not as useful as advice that doesn’t make sense, yet.
I’m just thinking out loud.
thanks for making me think.
When looking for advice, yes, “what” and “how” are key. When providing coaching, the same is often true.
However, too often individuals do things because it is “what I was told to do” or it is “how we’ve always done it”. This leads to outdated or no longer efficient techniques and processes. When looking at our own work, asking why can provide us with insightful information about the ultimate goal, allowing us to explore new and innovative ways for achieving it.
But, instead of asking “Why am I doing this?”, a better alternative is perhaps “What is the ultimate goal?”
Thanks for the piece Dan. Very thought providing.
You bring another important facet to this conversation. What and How can get in the way too.
I have made big mistakes by skipping “why”. You cannot ditch a process, unless you know WHY it was there. You cannot reverse a policy, unless you know WHY it was made. And your staff will not have a deep knowledge and rich understanding of the job if they are not taught WHY they do what they do and WHY these policies are there.
Well said Ann! Thanks for jumping in.
I ask my clients why questions first. I need to know what is behind their thinking. I do this because I believe until they see the” I can’t get there from here ” are they really ready to consider other options fully.
People often resist change until they have consider it so as an adviser I endeavor to clarity the potential outcomes ( the whats) of all feasible options to facilitate the best decision making.
One of the hallmarks of a solid strategy is it stands up to real scrutiny and should be fully vetted. I believe this also drives the how questions to ground. Having a clear vision of the finish line facilitates setting meaningful milestones / validation points as well.
I should mention the decision must always rest with the client. If they accept your advice as a solution without internalizing it commitment my be lacking.
Thank you for adding your insights to this conversation. I appreciate everything you shared and particularly enjoyed your final paragraph.
We only do what we own.
You have my best,
I wonder if the value of why, how and what ( and what order to ask them in) shouldn’t be driven by what we’re doing. Problem solving requires why first. Relational questions might benefit by first identifying what is happening, to separate the emotion. And, as Dan and others point out, vision and strategy require different thinking than tactics.
I personally am addicted to why and how – I like to know what makes things tick. But sometimes that just distracts me.
Great seeing you again. 🙂
Love the situational approach to which questions to ask and when.
As you know I’m a huge advocate for What and how… but I must concede that “why” has it’s place. 🙂 Well, it has many places depending on the situation.
Dan, this is great advice. I really liked the approach to seeking the right answers by asking the right type of person and asking the right types of questions.
What a thoughtful post, and so timely for by biz in understanding some of the advice we’ve been getting lately…. or shall I say “options”. I’m off to get some “insights” now, which is what I realize I need more than options at this time! Thank you!
Hi Dan – very challenging for me to change ‘tact’ away from asking Why? Having done Business Excellence Training within my corporate responsibilities, I have been taught to …. “Ask Why x 5 times” …to get past the surface of the issue, and get really down to the root cause! On reflecting though, often the organisation would not truly admit to the root cause when it was identified…. so no permanent change impacted anyway. Because as the manager I was probably “driving” the questions, I failed to allow my team to have insight – which of course they would then have taken ownership if they could see it themselves, rather than the boss telling them.
I love this post: there are new insights that I hadn’t come across before and I’ve always wondered how to overcome decision-paralysis and information overload. I believe people ask ‘why’ to understand core values and whether there is a match between suggested solution(s) and the values of the organization/individual. However, when a person needs to keep asking why, then they themselves are ignorant of how to match the company’s/individual’s core values to a solution – if they are aware of the core values at all, which just digs the pit even deeper. Sometimes the ‘why’ questions are also to understand the deeper and/or wider impact and consequences of actioning any given solution. I think sometimes we need to ask why we are asking why i.e. what are the deeper implications you are looking for?
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Have you ever wondered how to get the best out of advisors? How do you quiz the advisor… who is the advisor on advisors? Well, here are some insights to follow.