Giving and receiving good advice requires emotional intelligence and self-awareness (listen to episode 037 of my leadership podcast for more about self-awareness). Some people may think a person either has these skills or they don’t.
In reality, skills necessary to giving and receiving good advice can be learned, cultivated, and applied over time and throughout your leadership journey.
The art of giving and receiving advice is not a luxury or a nice to have, it is essential for effective life leadership.
In a 3-part leadership blog series, I want to share my thoughts on some common obstacles to giving and receiving good advice and practicals ways to overcome these obstacles (as outlined by the Harvard Business Review).
It’s no secret if you want to be an effective leader, you need to surround yourself with good and trustworthy advice. To do so, you have to be able to identify your blind spots, recognize when and how to ask for guidance, get the most relevant insights from the right people, and overcome your innate defensiveness of your own brilliant ideas.
You need a reliable brain trust—a group of personal advisors I like to call a Kitchen Cabinet. But it's not enough to just check the box. If you want good advice, you have to develop the skills to overcome the obstacles to get good advice.
Be aware of these common obstacles to getting good advice from your Kitchen Cabinet:
1. Acting like you have all the answers
I know, you probably scoff at the very suggestion that maybe, just maybe, you think you have all the answers. Tricky thing is you might really believe you need others’ advice, but you might unconsciously act as though you already have all the answers.
As people, we tend to have a pretty inflated view of ourselves (enter the need for self-awareness) and purposefully or not, our default position is solo decision making.
Even worse, is knowing we need to ask for advice (good), asking for advice (better), but asking for advice as a way to validate our existing view point or in an attempt to get some adulation from others (not best).
You might ask others for advice (sort of) when you are so convinced you’ve already solved the problem. Beware to not just check the box of getting an outside perspective with little to no intention of factoring that outside perspective into your decision or behavior.
Another way you may act as though you have all the answers is when you have that nagging suspicion or creeping doubt about your already self-concocted solution, but you push aside the gut feeling because you can’t bear the thought of the time and effort it will take to let others help you create and execute a solution.
Be aware—it’s risky to ask your Kitchen Cabinet for advice only to “check the box.” The time and energy of people in your Kitchen Cabinet is valuable, you risk alienating yourself from good counsel when they start to realize (and they will) that you’re only asking for guidance to maintain a facade of being open to outside counsel but not really acting on it.
2. Choosing the wrong advisors for a given situation
I caution you against surrounding yourself exclusively with like minded advisors or people with similar experience and perspectives—whether you do this knowingly or not.
A Harvard Business Review article sites a study of CEOs, revealing a correlation between the financial success of the CEOs respective companies and the CEO getting advice from executives outside their industry and from those with differing functional backgrounds.
Conversely, CEOs who consult with executives in their same industry, with similar backgrounds and experience, tend to have companies with less successful financial indicators.
You need people inside your industry and outside your industry. You need people with the same strengths and definitely people with different strengths. You need people with different backgrounds, life experience, expertise, and formal training.
You need variety to help you lead well.
3. Defining the problem poorly
When you do ask for advice, do you drone on and on about the situation, giving a lengthy blow-by-blow that causes your listener and potential advice giver to tune out or perhaps misidentify the core of the problem you need help solving?
Do you leave out details that make you look bad yet they are details crucial to the overall picture of the problem?
Do you take certain background details for granted and fail to relay those to the listening member of your Kitchen Cabinet when asking for advice?
Be succinct and pithy. But be through enough so your advisor understands the whole picture and can advise you well.
Your Kitchen Cabinet is crucial to your success as a leader. Knowing how to effectively ask them for advice is important next step to leveraging the power of your Kitchen Cabinet.
For more ideas on how to build your own Kitchen Cabinet to be the invaluable resource when you do need advice on your leadership journey, get your own copy of my leadership ebook: Who’s In Your Kitchen Cabinet | 10 Ways to Build a Powerful Brain Trust.
This leadership ebook if my gift to you, to empower you to lead with purpose, direction, and optimism.