I’m a smart guy (just ask me!) with a lot of life experience. I’ve lead and managed diverse teams from 2 to 200 people. I’ve served in the Army in three combat zones, trained senior Iraqi Army officers, negotiated with Afghan warlords and shared meals with Taliban insurgents. I have an honours degree in Engineering, have traveled widely and am now self-employed. People should listen to me!
At least that’s what I thought until I recently read a very interesting book called Quiet Leadership by David Rock.
Hold On: Here Comes a Paradigm Shift!
Reading this book gave me a flash of inspiration, an ‘A-Ha’ moment:
Giving advice rarely works so why bother
Why does advice has such a low effectiveness? Because our brains are all very different. The way we store, organise, manage and retrieve information is very different. When we give other people advice we make the unconscious assumption that the other person’s brain is the same as ours. As David Rock puts it:
“….we input their problem into our brain, see the connections our brain would make to solve this problem, and spit out the solution that would work for us. We then tell people what we would do and are convinced it’s what they should do.”
Take The ‘Advice’ Test
After reading David Rock’s thoughts about the ineffectiveness of giving advice, I thought that it made sense but reading something isn’t always good enough for me. So I undertook the simple activity that David includes in his book to prove his thoughts for myself. This activity required me to carry a pen and paper for a week and to record every time someone gave me advice and whether this advice was useful or not.
I lasted three days before being completely converted to David’s opinion. Here’s what I recorded in these three days:
Total Advice Received = 15
Useful Advice Received = 2
Percentage Useful Advice = 13%
Extrapolate this out to a full year and it is reasonable to assume that over the course of one year I will receive 1825 pieces of advice of which 87% will not be useful!
Prove it to yourself and start this activity now for the next seven days. It certainly changed my perspective!
A Better Way: Help People Think
So if giving advice only helps in about 13% of cases, what is a better way to assist others? Help people to think instead.
Thinking for yourself and creating your own brain connection to solve a problem is what creates those ‘A-Ha’ moments. The energy given off from the creation of these neural pathways is what creates internal motivation and drives action. Whether this energy is actual or metaphorical is a question for your local neuroscientist. What I do know is that whenever I experience an ‘A Ha’ moment when encountering a challenge I can barely contain myself from moving into a heightened state of motivation and action.
How To Help People Think?
For my mind, the easiest way to help someone to think is to ask useful questions. Useful questions are ones which allow someone to put the problem into perspective, clarify their thinking and create their own solution to their problem. There are thousands of sites on the internet that provide great lists of useful questions. Rather than me re-create the wheel, search for ‘coaching questions’ to find a lot of great example questions. Here are a couple of good links to get you going:
Next time you find yourself about to give some advice, remind yourself that the overwhelming odds are that your advice will not be helpful for them. Instead ask some useful questions and help them think instead!
Hopefully my advice in this post beats the odds and sits in your 13% of useful advice received!
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