The Gifts of Leadership: How to Give Advice That People Respect
People don’t want advice. They want the pain to go away. They want to keep doing the same thing but get different results.
The world is full of answer-givers, but who can find a skillful advisor?
The surprising truth about giving advice is it’s more about listening than talking.
What kind of advisor are you?
- Expert. You know something others need to know. Perhaps you have relevant technical knowledge.
- Experienced. You’ve been there and done that. You’ve failed and learned.
- Skilled. You have relevant abilities?
- Outsider. You see things differently. Perhaps you’re older or younger, married or single, on the front-line or in management, or from a different culture.
Don’t fall in love with giving advice.
Give advice from a position of humility. It’s heady to have someone seek your advice. Keep your feet on the ground.
7 advice-givers to avoid:
#1. Needy advisors rush to answers. Good advice begins by exploring and defining problems. People who are eager to tell people what to do, don’t know the real problem.
Explore roots, not just fruits. There are symptoms to problems and there are root causes.
#2. Hard-headed advisors make up their minds quickly and defend their position.
#3. Inept advisors neglect values and strengths. Advice needs to fit the advisee. Generic advice should be presented as guiding principles that anyone might use.
#4. Bungling advisors think it’s all about advice and forget about energy. Good advice fits the situation AND lights people up.
#5. Incompetent advisors always have an answer. Instead say, “I don’t know, but lets figure it out.”
#6. Self-centered advisors talk about themselves more than asking about others.
#7. Confused advisors have it all together. They don’t have their own issues, challenges, and problems. Problem free advisors are blind, ignorant, arrogant, or all three.
Anyone who has it all together, doesn’t.
How might you turn the above warnings into suggestions for giving advice that people respect?
What are the qualities of skillful advisors?
Good article Dan. “Anyone who has it all together, doesn’t.” BAM
My wife is a good listener and let’s me talk through the problem and possible solutions encouraging the positive directions.
Thanks Duane. Often, a listening ear is more useful than a moving mouth.
I really like your–“Avoid these 7 Advice Givers.”
Giving advice–I always start by asking the person—Are you open to my feedback? Do you want my opinion? (My daughter has said–I just want you to listen.)
I also try to keep in mind–too much advice is as bad as too little advice. Keep it short and to the point.
And finally–is my advice actionable? Is it clear what specific actions the person will take?
Thanks Paul. Great insights. My favorite is, “Is it actionable?”
This is an interesting topic. I dont particularly like giving advice as I am mindful of the frame of mind I am in at that particular point in time. I try to listen and understand the situation as at times the person seeking the advice only wants you to agree and justify how they are feeling. On occassions I have asked the individual what outcome they wish to achieve and let them ponder the situation.
Thanks Lisa. It’s true. Some people want affirmation and confirmation. When people are like that, I often ask what they want to do. After they tell me, I say, “That seems like a reasonable option.”
When people don’t really want advice, don’t bother. They will learn through experience.
I’m with you, ask what they want to achieve. What’s the outcome you want? It’s interesting that people often focus so much on problems that they lose sight of what they really want.
Sometimes the best advice is learned through self discovery. Skillful questioning and LISTENING as you say can lead the asker into a solution they eventually come up with themselves.
I hesitate often to ‘advise’ as I will not consider myself most knowledgeable or even adequately knowledgeable if I am not involved in the situation.
But yes…avoid those you list above.
Thanks as always Dan!…and Merry Christmas!
Thanks Will. The solution we find through reflection and exploration is better than the one someone else gives us. 🙂
Hi Dan – thanks for another great idea – listening when advising. I agree listening is super important and I would expand that to include curiosity. I define curiosity as having three components, one of which is listening in a way that is open and non-judging, sitting in a place of ambiguity so one can truly understand what is going on for the other person. I would add being present to ABSORB (attentive, watching body language, stopping all other activities, open to really listen, repeating in paraphrase for clarity and becalming the gremlins in our head) and asking open questions (begin with who, what, where, when, how and why) to gain deeper clarity. The seeker of advice can determine exactly what their needs are and the advisor can remain humble (I liked the notion of humility as an advisor) while sharing her ideas.
Thanks Kathy…I love ABSORB. Is it original with you? I want to use it.
Excellent topic and context …
good advisors lead,
good leaders engineer epiphanies
(well, facilitate may be a better word).
As such, generally bad advice = KISS
(Keep It Simple, Stupid)
And generally good advice = MISE
(MAKE It Simple, and Elegant).
Elegance is achieving the greatest number of effects with the least expenditure (energy/resources); and
Simplicity is the RESOLUTION of the complexity, not the starting point (for any sustainable, long lasting solution).
“Making” it that way requires a habit of emotional and circumstantial intelligence … and is ALWAYS relational (be aware of your perceptual AND actual relationship AT THIS TIME to the Other).
Go deep and go often … until all the blind spots are accounted for, and resolved.
Powerful insights, Rurbane! I get the feeling that you’re trying to avoid manipulative language like engineer or make. You have my respect. Sometimes the word “make” doesn’t really mean force.
Facilitate is a good option. Sometimes I say, “Create an environment where xyz happens.”
Great post, Dan. Reminded me of Gordon Dickson’s “some people like my advice so much that they frame it up on the wall instead of using it.”
LOL, good one, Mark. It’s true, we often want to talk the talk. Walking the walk is for OTHER PEOPLE!
Gold. Pure Gold!
I written before, “Leadership is the gift given to you by your followers.”
As a bulldog problem-solver, I have to work hard to remind myself to just listen and not try to “fix it.” It really helps when the other person says, “I just need to vent,” or “I just need a sounding board.”