To be effective leaders, we all need good advice, and we need to give good advice to others. Problem is, advice sharing is not as easy as it sounds.
In business, good advice is priceless.
Managers who are anxious and confused when confronted with corporate challenges can find that a piece of sound advice from a colleague can instill a sense of calm and clarity that leads to more thoughtful and strategic business decisions. In turn, offering advice to others is considered an important mark of a leader.
People have a remarkable degree of overconfidence, and that diminishes the amount of advice they typically seek
Yet business executives aren’t always making the most of advice on both the giving and the receiving end because they may not realize that it involves skills that can be learned and refined. Highly skilled advisers pay close attention to how they advise as much as what kind of advice they give. The advice give-and-take is not always easy to pull off. Both the advice-giver and the receiver are prone to common missteps that can cloud communication and even damage relationships.
But when advice-giving does go well, it is a beautiful thing. If you’ve been thinking about a problem in a certain way, and the advice and counsel you get lets you see it in a completely different light, it allows you to see a path through that you didn’t see before.
.Hesitant To Ask For Help
Some executives are wary of seeking advice at all. For one thing, many people operate under the assumption that they already have all the answers.
People have a remarkable degree of overconfidence, and that diminishes the amount of advice they typically seek. Plus, many executives believe that if they seek advice, they will be viewed as incapable of making decisions on their own.
Research shows that people who seek too much advice—those who ask for a wide range of opinions, for example, before making every little decision—are viewed as overly dependent and receive lower performance ratings from their bosses, but then again, people who rarely seek advice receive lower performance ratings as well. The folks in the middle those who seek advice regularly but not too often earn the highest scores.
Advice-seekers Make Mistakes
People who seek advice make a variety of mistakes, including:
⦁ Choosing the wrong advisers, particularly by turning only to those with like-minded ideas, rather than seeking out people who will provide a devil’s advocate point of view
⦁ Defining the problem poorly, either by taking the conversation to unrelated tangents or by omitting key information that might cast the advice-seeker in a poor light
⦁ Misjudging the quality of the advice they are given
Once advice-seekers have received counsel, perhaps one of the biggest mistakes they make is discounting the wisdom they were given, often because of an egocentric bias that has them naturally favoring their own viewpoints. Sometimes people will ask for advice from others, but their true goal is to seek validation or praise for their own solutions.
Experience shows that people in powerful positions are often most guilty of doing this, in some cases because they actually feel competitive when receiving advice from experts—which may lead them to dismiss the advice those experts are giving.
“Powerful people often say to themselves, ‘I have to be in this position for a reason. I trust my opinions implicitly and discount others, especially if they suggest a different direction or approach. They see such advice as a threat to their expertise.”
Yet the advice-giver may also play a role in the advice falling flat by failing to clearly outline the reasoning for the advice.
As an advice-seeker, you’re in a dilemma. You know how you got from A to Z, but an adviser says, ‘What you should do is X,’ and often doesn’t tell you how he got from A to X. You have two reasoning processes—your own, which is clear and well understood, and the other person’s, which is completely opaque. People tend to favor clarity. All too often, they discount advice because they can’t get the adviser’s reasoning process clear in their minds.”
That’s why it’s important for the advice-giver not only to provide suggestions, but also to clearly lay out how he or she got to the recommended options from where the advice-seeker started.
Mistakes of Advice-givers
Those who give advice often make several mistakes of their own, such as overstepping invisible boundaries with unsolicited advice that may be seen as intrusive, or by giving advice when they’re not qualified to do so.
The first question an advice-giver should ask is: Am I the best person to help?
If someone comes to you for advice and you know you’re not able to provide helpful, thoughtful input, it’s OK to pass, noting it’s better to shy away from giving advice than to give poor advice. Advice-givers often feel so flattered to be sought out that they provide advice about topics they may not be qualified to discuss.
“You want to be helpful. You feel like you’re now the expert in the room,” It’s hard to sometimes say, ‘I don’t have the field of vision necessary to help.
But if that’s the case, perhaps the adviser can recommend speaking with someone else more qualified.
Other advice-giving mistakes include:
⦁ Communicating the advice poorly
⦁ Misdiagnosing a problem, either by prematurely believing you see similarities with issues you have faced or by neglecting to ask the kind of probing, relevant questions that will get to the heart of the matter
⦁ Giving self-centered guidance
Advice-seekers should see a red flag when advice-givers limit themselves to saying, “Here’s how I would respond if I were in your shoes.
They’re not thinking about you and your circumstances and limitations; they’re thinking about how they would act, and their experiences, expertise, and standing may be very different from yours. When a junior faculty member goes to a senior faculty member who is tenured, and the senior faculty member says, ‘If I were in your shoes,’ that may be poor advice because the situation facing a no tenured faculty member is very different than that facing a tenured one.” For this reason, skilled advisers often add the caveat, “But since I’m not you, here’s the way I’m thinking about the problem, and here are some factors you might want to consider.”
A key problem for both advice-seekers and -givers is a lack of careful listening.
What listening requires is suspending judgment. You have to hear the person out—at length and in depth—before shifting to action or making recommendations.
Sometimes the advice-seeker is leaving out key pieces of information inadvertently or because of discomfort with his contribution to the problem.
If someone says I have interpersonal issues at work and mentions a lot about peers and supervisors, but nothing about subordinates, there may be something more to the story. The part that’s left out of the story is often the key to understanding it. That is one of the reasons people come to you for advice: They aren’t able to see the full picture on their own.
That’s why it’s important for both the advice-seeker and the advice-giver to ask questions of each other. The advice-seeker needs to get clarifications on the adviser’s thinking to determine whether the advice fits the situation, and the advice-giver needs to fully understand the problem—and that might mean teasing out some unflattering facts the advice-seeker may have been shy about revealing.
Plus, the advice-giver needs to remember that the goal is to understand the problem and then convey the advice in a way that can be heard—and often this means talking through the pros and cons of various options with the advice-seeker, rather than zeroing in on one answer too early.
There’s a tendency to forget it’s not about you, how smart you are, and how helpful you feel you can be, but it’s about being experienced by the advisee as helpful. The danger is that you immediately jump to a conclusion about the best solution. It’s better to see advising as a process where you inquire, listen, and talk through the issue, and once you’ve got a sense of the problem together, you need to generate some options and explore them. That way you increase the likelihood of producing advice that is actionable and feasible, and in fact helps.