Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Render Advice - So that your staff listens

There has been a lot of talk about how to get valuable feedback, because providing it is so often delivered with anxiety. Management may not want or probably shy away from the negative, critical part, even though they realized it is one of their important role and responsibility to hear feedback and give their advice. I have not read a lot or seen many written articles about the art of giving good, old-fashioned advice. Unencumbered by some of the complications of performance reviews — nothing official, nothing related to compensation or promotion, nothing necessarily critical or painful to hear — well-intentioned advice should be a treat to give and to receive.

Would you get better or improve your art of management in giving advice to your subordinates? It may be helpful to pass your experience and wisdom on to others as it also extends your own influence, regardless of whether you ever get “rewarded”. It is also a way to gain trust, stature and gravitas; and it’s just plain gratifying to be valued for what’s in your head.

Why then people who sought for advice still manage to screw up? It could be less about the quality of advice and more because of the way it’s been sent out. The way advice is given can inadvertently increase the receiver’s resistance to hearing it or acting on it. You want the advisee to come away with good advice, rather than bad feelings about the advisor. Note that giving it well doesn’t necessarily make it good advice.

- Bear in mind the difference between solicited and unsolicited advice. Both are perfectly fine ways to be helpful, but remember that the unsolicited variety may not always be welcome, so the recipient might be have tendency to a bruised ego if you push the advice too far.

- Say the "thank you" word. This applies to solicited advice. Before offering any of your wisdom, express some gratitude for being asked. After all, it’s flattering to be seen as wise and helpful. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like being asked for advice. By doing it is one of the best ways to better a relationship as it’s a mutually gratifying human interaction and flattering without being obsequious.

- Understand the intent of question. There’s nothing more annoying than asking for advice on one thing and getting wrong advice referring to non related matter. Stick to the subject at hand, unless somehow there’s a connection.

- Do not be arrogant.  There really is a difference between coming across as authoritative (presumably the advice-seeker wouldn’t be seeking your advice if they didn’t think you knew your stuff) as opposed to authoritarian (using your power to compel someone to follow your advice, or being pathologically certain that you’re always right). Being authoritative can be done with humility, like saying “I’ve seen a lot of situations like this, and I’m concerned that if you don’t deal with this problem now, the damage will only get worse with time.” An authoritarian way of giving the same advice might be, “Look, you have to get rid of that guy now, or else I’ll do it for you.” The latter is obnoxious, off-putting, and not going to help much.

- Get feedback about your advice. Often the best advice is created in an iterative way, rather than being delivered from on high. So after you’re done expounding, ask the recipient if that makes sense, or how they might feel about acting on your advice. Their reactions can help you refine it together and make it even more meaningful.

- Get follow-up. Not only does it show you care if you ask your advice-seeker to let you know how it goes, but it also conveys that you have a stake in giving good advice. Whether or not they take you up on the offer, it will leave them feeling even better about you and more confident in acting on what you’ve shared.

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