top of page

Don't Give Advice: Use your secret weapon instead

When someone comes to you with a problem, what is your response? 


If you are like most of us, we give our advice, solicited or not. 


Why do we think we know it all? Wouldn’t matter what the topic is, leadership, kids, marriage, career. We are very willing to jump in with our thoughts to offer our perspective.


Giving advice is a pattern of behaviour.


Do you remember learning about Pavlov’s theory in school?


Pavlov demonstrated salivation in dogs through a series of experiments where he paired the sound of a bell with the presentation of food. Over time, the dogs began to associate the bell with food and would start to salivate at the sound of the bell, even when no food was presented.


We are like Pavlov’s dog when it comes to advice. Someone shows up in our doorway seeking help and our automatic response kicks in to fix their problems. If we jump into rescue mode, it’s likely because we don’t have any other tools in our leadership toolkit to deal with it.


Our desire to give advice in the workplace, for example, could also be explained by this passage from The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay-Stanier


“When you take the premium that your organization places on answers and certainty, then blend in the increased sense of overwhelm and uncertainty and anxiety that many of us feel as our jobs and lives become more complex, and then realize that our brains are wired to have a strong preference for clarity and certainty, it's no wonder that we'd like to give advice even if it's the wrong advice - and it often is - giving it feels more comfortable than the ambiguity of asking a question.”


Let’s get a little more comfortable with uncertainty. 


Remember, you are a leader. Leaders empower. You no longer adhere to old school leadership telling people what to do all the time. People don’t respond well to that, especially, the younger population that has moved into the workplace.  


You help people find the solutions, so they learn to think for themselves. This also makes your job as a leader easier. You don’t have to be the only one coming up with the solutions. How nice would that be?


Don’t give advice when someone shows up asking for help. Do THIS instead.


Use your secret weapon to combat advice giving. Use the all-powerful question. 


How does asking questions help?

There are many things that happen when we ask questions.

Here are some of them below:

Did you know a question is that powerful? 


So instead of being the irritated rescuer, fixer person who doesn’t need more work, become the confident leader who knows exactly how to provide value to your team members or family. You are now facilitating the conversation versus solving the problem.


Here are 3 tips on asking powerful questions that help others get unstuck:


#1 Begin questions with What or How. 

These open ended questions draws out the wisdom from the other person. It gets them "out of their head" looking at the problem in a new way.


#2 Have your questions move through a process. Clarify, Discovery, Solution. 

You will ask different kinds of questions in these phases until you get to an answer.


To begin, ask questions that CLARIFY, so that you both know what you are talking about. 

What is the issue? What specifically do you need help with? What is the most important thing you and I should be talking about?


Next, help them unpack the problem. DISCOVER the issue from different angles using questions.

What have you tried before? What is your biggest obstacle? What resources are you using? What resources aren’t you utilizing?


Hint: When you spend enough time in discovery, the solutions and strategy will become obvious. 


Lastly, wrap it up by moving into SOLUTION mode helping them find an action or strategy to execute. 


This process can be used if you only have 10 minutes in your day or giving the person a full 30-minute session.


Remember: your questions will take them to a solution. A solution is why they came to see you in the first place. There could be many solutions that emerge, but the team member (or family member) gets to choose which one is suitable.


#3 Refrain from asking the question in disguise. 🥸

Have you tried…?

What about…..?

Did you think about this?


These questions are leading, suggestive and trying to influence. 


Not only will asking questions keep you out of advice giving; they will supersize your leadership ability.


Give it a try. Play with this idea. You don’t need to be serious about it. Practice one piece of it like asking clarifying questions the next time someone asks for help. A new approach just might surprise you and make your life as a leader easier!


Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.


Challenge: Find an opportunity today to practice asking questions rather than advice giving.


Want to start your week off inspired? 

Receive weekly leadership letters from me with messages like this of thought leadership, practical tips & coaching. Sign up for Coach In Your Inbox to get access. You will automatically get your leadership freebie when you sign up.

3 views0 comments


bottom of page