Instead of Giving Advice Try This

by  Mary C. Schaefer  |  Leadership Development

“[As a coach] my job is to be trustworthy while telling them [clients] to put their trust where it belongs: in their own sense of truth.”

Martha Beck, celebrated coach and author

Whether you are a leader, a consultant, a mentor or anyone people come to for advice, you are walking a line.

A few weeks ago I had the honor of speaking with a 29-year-old man completing his PhD and launching into a new job in the corporate world.  He had been in school and doing internships and such for the last 11 years. He asked me for my advice as he entered the corporate world.

My ego raised its head and at the same time a tiny cold feeling went up my spine.  I know he wasn’t looking for the “meaning of life,” but who am I to tell him anything, and potentially rob him of the outcomes, negative or positive, of his own choices?

What are your options?

I ended up asking him a lot of questions.  Questions about what he expected. How he might handle different situations.  What his hopes were.  After about 10 minutes I asked him if he noticed that I didn’t give him any advice.  “Yes.”  And why?  Thankfully he didn’t say, “Because I’m on my own.”

It’s about them trusting themselves.

My advice-asker got it immediately.  I was so pleased that he claimed what he wanted and needed and recognized it was up to him to make choices and live with them, and also recognize that he had the smarts to do so, and was entitled to want what he wanted.

Coach to encourage self-discovery.

I don’t think I could have given him any better advice.

Not that we should deny people the benefit of our own learnings, perspectives, and observations based on our own successes, mistakes, and experiences.  Yes, they are looking to us as leaders, and we can deliver that in different ways.

When people look to you for advice, how do you lead and help them develop their own personal leadership at the same time?

Image: Contributor miszaqq at BigStockPhoto

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About The Author

Articles By mary-schaefer
Speaker, coach and trainer Mary Schaefer’s expertise is in creating work cultures where organizations and human beings can both thrive. She is a former HR manager. Find out more about how Mary helps managers empower themselves to make the most of their human resources with this special collection of articles selected for LCG readers:  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Clint Pagan  |  15 Aug 2013  |  Reply

Mary, these are great tips for up and coming coaches, leaders and consultants. We all have the answers inside of us and it would be almost harmful for us as coaches to push our thoughts which may not even line up with their desires, onto their lives. Thank you for sharing this great post and the value you add.

-Clint Pagan

Terry Pringle  |  16 Aug 2013  |  Reply

I have always tried this approach Mary and it really works well. I always think that “unsolicited advice given is lecturing”. It’s when the other person does not put 2 and 2 together, that it becomes frustrating. Here is where patience comes in, because the light may go on for them, several hours later.

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