Big Red Car here. Bit cloudy in the ATX and can’t understand why exactly. Forecast was for a nice hot, sunny day. WTF, Big Red Car?
Speaking of cloudy, there is probably no more difficult subject to address than the giving, receiving and using of advice.
Best advice ever
The Boss often tells the tale of the best advice he was ever given: “Dress like the dummies, dummy.”
The Boss’s Mother pointed out to the very young Boss that men’s clothing stores like Bond’s and Brooks Brothers paid designers a fortune to dress their storefront windows. The designers were very good at what they did. The Brooks Brothers store in NYC, in particular.
So Mom used to tell the young Boss — “Dress like the dummies, dummy.”
Once upon a time when The Boss was headed out in a suit, Mom said: “You look very handsome and well dressed, just like a dummy.”
Best advice ever.
Is the advice welcome?
The first thing to establish is whether the advice is welcome or being solicited. This is very important because the recipient may only be venting and looking for a warm shoulder to cry upon and not really seeking any advice. You will understand this a bit better when you are cursed with teenagers.
The Boss took years to learn this simple truth — ask whether the advisee is actually looking for any advice. “Could you use a bit of advice?”
This will save everyone a lot of time.
Sometimes folks don’t really want any advice. Respect that.
Do you understand the situation?
Before you begin to pontificate, make damn sure you understand the situation.
Ask questions to ensure you understand the situation completely.
“Brief back” what you think you know. “So, this is what I have heard you say on this subject, do I have it right?”
Don’t even begin to do any thinking until you understand fully the situation and you have buy in that your understanding is correct.
Lay out the alternatives
Before you focus on a particular bit of advice, lay out the alternatives. In many ways this is just fundamental decision-making theory.
Remember this earlier post about the skills of successful CEOs? This is a basic decision-making process applied to the decision of what advice to offer. Click on the link and study it a bit.
Once you, the advice giver, and the recipient of the advice have a clear handle on the nature of the alternatives, then you can fashion your advice.
Speak clearly and fully
Provide your advice and justify why you have selected this advice.
Discuss it as long as the other party desires to discuss it.
Understand that many times recipients have sought you out because they don’t like the logical alternative or are looking for a sounding board for their own deliberations. They need to talk about. Provide that sounding board.
Sometimes advice is a bitter pill to swallow. Make it easier by discussing it fully.
Do not be judgmental
Do not press to get an advisee to immediately embrace and implement the advice. You are supposed to be making their lives easier, not harder. Be gentle and wise, Old Sport. Do not be a judgmental prick. [Hey, Big Red Car, really a prick? Yes, do not be a “know it all” prick sayeth the Big Red Car.]
Never, ever, ever be judgmental and leave every conversation with an escape hatch. Do not press for closure.
Good advice may require a period of marination before the flavors are just right. Sometimes the recipient knows that the advice is right but just doesn’t want to quite throw in the towel. Eating dessert first tastes a lot better than following some tough advice and will require a bit of time to embrace.
When the advice is either taken or rejected, let it go and do not crow about the good outcome or piss and moan about the bad outcome.
Own your advice
Be prepared to own your advice and do not shirk from the responsibility of owning it should the outcome be less than good.
Own it, Grasshopper.
As a recipient of advice, make damn sure you frame the conversation completely. Do not leave out some detail which would have a huge impact on the situation.
Listen carefully and probe deeply. Understand why the advice is being given.
Small thing: do not say “Oh, that’s what I thought you would say.” It irritates folks to think you already knew the advice you have received and it makes it seem like ya’ll are just play acting. Very small point, Old Sport.
When you follow or otherwise implement a discrete piece of advice, make sure you tell your adviser that you have done so. Report back the results.
If the results are good, examine why and tell your adviser.
Truth: you made the good outcome, not the advice or the adviser. All the advice in the world doesn’t matter unless you can execute. You get the credit as the person in the arena not the adviser. Tough love but true. So take a lion’s share of the credit for yourself.
Advisers, get over yourself, dude.
The caddy may advise Tiger on which club to use and the distance to the cup but Tiger has to hit the ball. Be a Tiger.