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


The surprising truth about giving advice is it’s more about listening than talking.

What kind of advisor are you?

  1. Expert. You know something others need to know. Perhaps you have relevant technical knowledge.
  2. Experienced. You’ve been there and done that. You’ve failed and learned.
  3. Skilled. You have relevant abilities?
    • Problem-solving.
    • Conflict-resolution.
    • Option-generating.
    • Question-asking.
  4. 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?