A group of managers were having a conversation about giving advice. It was obvious from the conversation their hearts were full of good intentions. They’re experienced and smart. And giving advice to someone else is their way of saying, “don’t make the same mistakes I made.”
On the surface, it sounds like a great idea.
Giving advice is tricky. And one person’s attempt to help can be interpreted as unwanted or condescending.
Here’s an example. I once worked with a group of district managers who supervised a staff of field managers. Most of the district managers had been promoted from the field manager position. So they knew the field manager’s job. They knew the opportunities and the pitfalls. The district managers were constantly frustrated when they tried to offer advice to the field managers about how to be more effective. In turn, the field managers were constantly frustrated because the district managers wouldn’t let them do things the way they wanted, which wasn’t wrong – it was just different.
The district managers kept inserting themselves more and more into the field operation because they “wanted to help.” When in reality, they were acting like they were trying to “save the field managers from themselves”.
Finally, the district managers and field managers had a meeting to clear the air. Both sides realized that giving advice can be a good thing, when respect exists:
It’s okay to give advice when it’s your responsibility to do so. Just because you held the job a long time ago doesn’t mean you know all of the dynamics of today’s position. Times change and so does the way jobs are structured.
If you give advice that wasn’t asked for, don’t get upset when it’s not followed. It’s very tempting to give advice even when someone didn’t ask for it. First stop to consider if the person is looking for advice. And if you just can’t help yourself and you offer advice anyway…remember it wasn’t solicited and may not be taken under consideration.
Think about how to structure the advice. Don’t do this and don’t do that is not a way to offer advice. If you want your advice to be heard, consider carefully how you’ll present it. It could be as simple as asking, “Can I offer an alternative point of view?” or “Can I share something that’s worked for me in the past?”
Thank a person for listening to your advice. They don’t have to. Many people act like offering advice is an entitlement, or a gift, based upon their role with the organization or their years of experience.
I know this is hard. I struggle with it myself. When I see someone getting ready to make a mistake or I want to help a person succeed, it’s natural to want to offer advice. But sometimes the best thing we can do is keep our mouth shut and allow a person to learn on their own.
If the ability to give advice is respected, there’s a chance a person’s advice will eventually be sought out.
Image courtesy of CJ Sorg