Great Leadership: How to Give Advice

Great Leadership: How to Give Advice.

Clearly State the Performance Problem or Learning Goal.  Begin your advice giving by letting the protégé know the focus or intent of your mentoring. For advice giving to work, you must be very specific and clear in your statement. Ambiguity clouds the conversation and risks leaving the protégé more confused than enlightened.  Stating the focus—an important coaching technique in general—helps sort out the form and content of the advice.

Make Sure You Agree on the Focus.  Make sure the protégé is as eager to improve as you are to see him improve. You may learn that the protégé has already determined what to do and has little need for your advice. Your goal is to hear the protégé say something like, “Yes, I’ve been concerned about that as well.” As Abraham Lincoln said, “A person convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

Ask Permission to Give Advice.  Your goal at this point is twofold: (1) to communicate advice without eliciting protégé resistance and (2) to keep ownership of the challenge with the protégé. This does not mean asking, “May I have your permission to . . .?” Rather, you might say, “I have some ideas on how you might improve if that would be helpful to you.” Your goal is to communicate in a way that minimizes the protégé’s perceiving he or she is being controlled or coerced.

State Your Advice in First Person Singular.  Phrases like “you ought to” quickly raise resistance! By keeping your advice in the first-person singular—“what Ifound helpful” or “what worked for me”—helps eliminate the shoulds and ought-tos. The protégé will hear such advice unscreened by defensiveness or resistance.


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