Early every morning, I go for a walk in a road, which goes around a hospital. Invariably, I see this girl rushing to catch some bus. She runs wearing a high-heeled shoe and for some reason, I felt that I needed to tell her that she should wear something better as footwear, if she wants to run else she will hurt herself. She heard me out, turned and ran again. From then on, she just ran faster when she saw me walking. After a few days, I noticed that the girl actually had bought some sneakers and was running. I was happy. When I narrated this at home, I was advised not to advise strangers because, it was none of my business. I agreed. I still cannot fathom why I got the urge to advise a complete stranger and was even more surprised that my advice was heeded to.
I work with a bunch of youngsters, who are all smart, polite and pleasant professionals. As an elder in the team, I often feel compelled to share my wisdom with these youngsters. I check myself and try not to be a nag. However, I do think I actually look for situations to advice 😀 There are also times, when people seek advice.
Whenever I advice, I know I mean well and I also believe it will help the recipient.
However, effectiveness of advice heavily depends on the recipient’s readiness to listen and accept. Many times, people are not ready to receive advice. They may listen because they are polite but that does not mean they are actually able to understand and are going to act.
There are many reasons why people do not accept advice.
They perceive reality different from the way you (the advisor) perceive. My mother is diabetic and many people advice her to walk, but she is convinced that sugar levels have nothing to do with walking. She refuses to see the reason for walking is to improve the blood circulation, which is more critical since her nerve ends are shrinking due to diabetes.
Some times, people are in denial and refuse to take advice. Some entrepreneurs refuse to close down and move on, in spite of clear signals of a failing business model, even after advice from experts. There are many personal situations including personal health, where I see people in denial and refusing to accept good advice.
Even when people solicit advice, we find that they actually have some solution in their mind and are seeking your confirmation. If you disagree with their solution because you know it is wrong and offer something that will work, there is a high chance you will be ignored.
So, what does one do as an advisor? Is it all dependent on the recipient?
No. There are many pitfalls to avoid.
First – Never prescribe a solution.
Example – what I have done above.
Many times we rush to advice and want to tell people what they should or should not do. Very often, we say ‘If I were you, I would or would not do this’. We are sincere and we think it will be effective. We assume a position of knowledge over the recipient. I believe this is not very effective many times.
Listening effectively and sharing information (facts and patterns), relevant to the situation on hand that will help the recipient arrive at their own solution, seems to be most successful form of advice.
In PM Power, I am surrounded by some great coaches and these are lessons I culled out by listening to them about their coaching experiences over the years!