Stop giving advice.


In a recent HBR article, a research team invited a number of people managers to describe their coaching skills (most rated themselves as “very good”) and then demonstrate those skills (most didn’t coach at all).

Most participants didn’t coach at all – they gave advice or offered a solution.

Sir John Whitmore, one of the original writers and thought leaders in the modern day field of professional coaching, described coaching as “unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”

Coaching, when done right, increases ownership and accountability, builds capability and capacity, and improves employee engagement.

Advice-giving, on the other hand, is received as micro-managing and is frequently at the root of retention and engagement problems because recipients of a steady stream of well-intentioned advice don’t get the opportunity to learn and grow and succeed based on their own ideas and abilities.

But let’s face it, giving advice is easier. Easier than asking questions, easier than waiting (im)patiently for what might not be the ideal answer. Easier than watching someone do something wrong or at least differently than you would have done it.

But hey, if you want it done YOUR way, YOU should probably do it.

On the other hand, if you really truly do want to develop people, lead engaged teams and get lots done, you’re going to need to tame your “advice monster.”

And – good news – there’s a book that can help you do just that.

Michael Bungay Stanier has been writing delightful, useful books for a long time. His latest, “The Advice Trap,” is the much-anticipated follow up to his brilliant The Coaching Habit. In “The Advice Trap” Michael teaches how to change your advice-giving behaviour so you can stay curious longer, and resist the temptation to jump in with ideas, opinions, suggestions and – yes – advice.

So go get this fantastic new book. Do what it says. And yes, for the record, THAT was advice.