I have always had a strong fascination with having conversations with others about the choices they have to make, and ultimately, the decision they make relating to their options. When I am involved with being part of this process, my intention is to guide, offer suggestions, but not to cajole the person towards a particular outcome. The exception to this is when they ask me, and truly want to know what decision path I would choose if I was in their situation.
Being a trusted advisor, I have a role that puts me this “exception” scenario regularly. So, I have had to become comfortable with sharing my advice, but more importantly, providing in-depth details in terms of “why” and “how” I would go about this process. If I didn’t do this, I would be doing a disservice to the person I am advising, and this is independent of who they are.
Although people ask for advice, we know it doesn’t always mean they will take it. Consider the expression “You can lead a horse to water if it is thirsty, but you can’t make it drink the water.” The same situation applies when advice is being given. It can be frustrating to the person giving advice when time after time their advice is dismissed, or bypassed, and the person they were advising ends up making either less than desirable choices, or has blatant and avoidable negative outcomes.
Contrary to what seems obvious, sometimes people can benefit from these outcomes, providing the choices and decisions they are making are not going to be dangerous or permanently irreversible. In these scenarios, more often the person you are leading or interacting with is an experiential learner, so they need to find out and experience first-hand what the outcome of their decision will result in.
Of course, some choices can be temporary, although we understand some may not be. Ideally, we are all better off when we have at least one or better yet, multiple choices. We usually do, but the challenge for some who are inexperienced, or perhaps stubborn, may be insistent that they know what is best for them. Yet, the outcome doesn’t result in what would have been best for them.
When you are guiding and leading someone who appears to be asking for support, but your experience with them has resulted in them doing the opposite from what was discussed, you each have a choice to make. The choice is to let this person the next time they ask for guidance that they don’t appear to need your advice. You then calmly share with them that their “track record” or history of asking for your advice hasn’t been leveraged, and that time after time they determined that their choice and ultimately their decision should override your guidance. Since they appear to only be interested in hearing your advice, versus leveraging it, let the person know that you will not be offering advice to them. Or, not until you determine your advice will be objectively considered. Not blatantly and routinely dismissed.
In the scenario of the person who continues to ask for advice, yet not take it, at some point they will come to a juncture of realizing why they were asking you for advice. Especially if they were not considering your advice. Or, the outcomes from their choices resulted in less than desirable results, and which impacted them negatively from a long-term perspective. Either personally or professionally. Often this individual’s pride or lack of “big picture” awareness and strategy is what lands them in this scenario. Yes, this can be very frustrating for both parties involved, but more so for the person experiencing the negative outcomes from their choices.
If you are leading others who would benefit from your advice in terms of making better choices and decisions, yet they have determined they know better, there are other options for you to consider exploring. Here are some for you to think about.
- Letting someone fail can sometimes be the greatest “gift”, and for those that are “experiential learners”, this is often a productive technique to have them consider an alternative approach from you.
- When someone has asked you for advice, ask them upfront if they truly want your advice? You can also ask them if you are one of many people they are having conversations with relating to the topic you are discussing? Sometimes the person you are leading needs multiple options to choose from. Don’t take this personally, it might simply be the style that helps them to decide.
- During your conversation with the person you are advising, ask them to verbally walk you through how they perceive the choices they have will result in a favorable decision or outcome?
- Often people neglect to fully think through the full consequences relating to their options. When you play the role of guiding them to fully consider how their options can play out, they may realize that some are far superior to others.
- Despite the fact the person asking you for advice may assume you have experience relating to what they are asking you about, it is far better to let them know you do not have actual experience relating to what they are asking for you to advise them about. In this scenario, your advice is going to be based on an accumulation of other experience, and it may or may not be what they need to help them. In other words, it’s OK not to always have an answer, and you are more credible when you admit you don’t.
- If you know someone who could provide better guidance, ask the person you are leading or interacting with if it would be possible to consult with them first, and with the intent of circling back to them with more beneficial information. Of course, you would want to do this in strict confidence, and not breech the trust of the person you are advising.
Offering guidance and advice to others or teams (e.g., business and sports) is an honor. It should also be taken very seriously, and presented with great care and concern for the outcome of the person you are engaging with. When you take this approach, you will be doing both those you are advising an opportunity to benefit from your guidance, but ultimately to learn from it too.
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