Friday, August 31, 2012

advice about getting advice

This past week I faced a decision that was none too easy for me - lots of variables and the situation seemed to only provide a lose-lose solution.  At least that's how I felt until I started getting advice from various people with whom I work.  Suddenly, I felt better about the decision making process, I had more options before me, and it soon became very clear what the decision should be.  I am forever grateful to those people who took the time to listen and give wise counsel and advice over this situation.  I was again reminded that it is important to seek advice from people when facing tough decisions - a no-duh in my book, but still good to be reminded.

So here are a few thoughts on (my personal advice) on asking for and getting advice:

  • be ready and willing to receive advice - don't ask for advice if your mind is already made up; be open to what people have to say and listen closely
  • ask the question, then shut up - seeking advice is not explaining why you are doing what you are doing - its listening to what others think about the issue and your role in the issue.  Learn to be quiet for a while and just listen
  • listen for the things that are not being said - in other words, ideas arise beyond what others are saying.  As one of my "advice givers" was talking with me the other day, I suddenly had the AHA moment when it all became clear, yet he had not said anything directly that led me to that decision
  • ask clarifying questions - the "why is that important" question and the "what do you mean by that" question are both critical to a deeper understanding of what the other person is saying to you
  • be clear about what type of advice you are seeking - this is important for yourself as well as the person who is giving the advice.  The paradox here is that you want to have a very clear question that is open ended for the responder to have space in which to think out loud
  • seek advice from a variety of people - don't just go to the most obvious people, or your good friends; seek advice from people whom you believe will be honest and yet caring for you and your situation.  I have to give kudos to my team who responded so beautifully and thoughtfully to my situation and made it so much more clearer to me
  • go find the person whom you may be least likely to take advice from - this is the hard one, because we do not naturally want to take advice from people like this.  I was blessed to have this person walk into my office on the day I most needed advice, and I took the risk to share my situation with him...and I am so glad I did
  • follow up with those who gave you the advice - let them know that you have made a decision and how their words helped in the process.  I have a few more people to visit on this score, but am looking forward to telling them how they were a big part of my decision making process
People in leadership positions often get there by giving advice...but once in that position, they only move forward (and move their organizations forward) by getting advice.  Be an advice getter - and it will be much easier to then be an advice giver.

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