Build or burn?

Giving advice

No matter how well-meaning, everyone’s advice boils down to this: be more like me.  How could it be otherwise?  You are being invited to say what you would do if you were in the position of the person seeking the advice.

If you are not careful as an advice-giver, you will start talking more about yourself and your own selfish needs and wants, successes and disappointments, and focus less on what is best for the person seeking the advice.  But what works for you, may not be appropriate for someone else.

Managers are often in the position – either as line manager or role model – of giving career advice to less experienced staff.  They must tread carefully when counselling someone who is very different from themselves: an extrovert counselling an introvert, or a conflict-seeker counselling a conflict-avoider, for instance.  In these instances, a manager must be able to make suggestions even if it is not behaviour they would propose for themselves.

There is no point in a dominant, assertive personality exhorting a quiet, shy person to ‘speak up’.  It might be necessary to advise them that unless they do so they will find it difficult to progress in management, but only if their expectations are out of alignment with that reality.  Better to give them advice on how quiet, shy people can be better at influencing others.

Your role when giving advice is merely to make someone aware of options they might not have considered.  Allow them to do the talking because they might talk themselves into the right answer (for them) and all you’ve had to do is listen.  To facilitate this process, ask questions.  Dig into their motivations.  Don’t be offended if they don’t take your advice because your role was to help the advice-receiver, the decision-maker, to be as well informed as possible.

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