Leading Teams and Delighting Customers

Tag: Coaching

Taming Your Advice Monster

For the past few weeks, I’ve been going through an internal workshop at Zapier called “Coaching For Performance.” I have many takeaways that I’m trying to implement in my own work. By far the most difficult strategy though involves “taming the advice monster.”

I imagine you’re familiar with this concept already. The advice monster frequently rears its head when someone approaches you with a problem. You listen patiently for a minute or two and then immediately begin offering up your advice.

Because, obviously, you have the solution, and they need to hear how awesome it is!

Maybe a solution is exactly what the person was looking for but probably not. Maybe they just wanted to talk through the issue and be heard. Maybe they wanted your feedback on a specific piece. Maybe they could come up with a solution on their own.

Engaging your advice monster has some obvious negative consequences:

  • You’re robbing the other person of a learning opportunity. Giving answers works in the short-term but not in the long-term.
  • You’re reducing their sense of autonomy. Instead of empowering them to resolve their own issues, you’re creating a bottleneck where you’re the answer provider.
  • You’re sending the subtle message of “You can’t figure this out yourself.”

The list goes on!

These downsides are obvious. You and I both know better than to continually engage our advice monsters. So, why do we do it constantly?

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It’s hard to sound or be humble when saying, “I’ve got some constructive feedback for you.” This sounds like you’re saying that you know a truth that the other person doesn’t know, and you’re going to tell them this truth. It’s sort of like saying, “You have a problem, I’m going to tell you what it is, and you’re going to fix it. And moreover, you’re gonna like fixing it.”

Kim Scott writes about the problems with “Constructive Feedback.” (h/t Simon).

If you’re looking for a follow-up read, this piece about giving high performers feedback has been helpful.

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