The Thing About Advice: Who Do You Trust?

Last week, when I read Seth Godin's blog post, "Most Advice is Bad Advice..." it got me thinking about advice in general.

I'll cut to the chase and say that I don't agree with him. At least not completely.

The problem is knowing whose advice is safe to take and who's isn't - which makes it all about trust.

And don't think that this is a "challenge." It's a problem - at least for you - because if you trust the wrong person, take their advice and it goes wrong, it's you who takes the hit. Not them.

You decided. You take the consequences.

So let's go back to that trust issue and figure out how to reduce the risk when you're making the decision of whom to trust - or whether to take any advice at all (which is also a perfectly acceptable decision).

Trust, as I've written in many previous posts and articles, is behavioral. But, in the case of advice-giving, underneath the behavior is the intent of the advisor - and that's where your smarts and instincts have to come in. Ask yourself:
  • Why did you choose that person to ask?
  • What have they done that led you to think that they know or will have good input about what you need to know?
  • Do they have a reputation of being trustworthy?
  • Are they a role model in the realm about which you're asking?
  • How well do you know them?
  • How well do they know you?
  • What are their goals?
  • How are they rewarded - particularly if they're part of your business life?
  • What's in it for them to give you the advice?
  • Will you make them look good...or better?
The more you understand your chosen advisor's underlying intent, the more you can protect yourself from taking advice that is well-meaning for them but not, necessarily, for you.

Something to think about. Especially before you ask...or you advise.

Teachers, Mentors, Guides: Who Changed Your Career?

Early in my career, I realized that I was not going to be one of those people who had "mentors" or "sponsors." I was too risky a proposition on a number of different levels, so mine was a corporate - and even consulting - career that had more than its fair share of people putting obstacles in my way.

That made those who represented turning points in my career - and particularly in my way of thinking - all the more important and valuable. They, knowingly and unknowingly, expanded my perspective - which led to a broader world view, career opportunities and life experiences I never thought would be mine.

Interestingly, it's been within the last two years - since starting Leadership Quantified - that a new person has been added to the list. The first woman.

For me, the four people are:
  1. Dr. W. Edwards Deming - who taught me that underlying management theory is a humanism that, when incorporated as part of everything from strategic thinking to operational execution, really can lead to joy and motivation and a goodness that workplaces are rarely - or never - known for.
  2. Takeo Minomiya - who taught me that strategy, at its best, turns the world on its head and that, only when you look at things from what would be considered impossible perspectives and proceed without fear can you - or your organization - succeed.
  3. Dr. Leon Lessinger - who taught me that accountability is the highest form of personal and professional respect you can pay yourself, your colleagues and society as a whole - and that, as such, it's both a choice and a measure of integrity.
  4. Sheryl Sandberg - who taught me that the ways women unknowingly undermine themselves - as well as the many ways women unforgivably undermine other women - are not only identifiable, but reversible and that the hope of the women who trailblazed my career can - and will - be achieved in the generations of women now and to come.
That's my crew of career- and life- changers - and I'm grateful to them all.

Now think about those who have played or are playing that role in your life and career - then ask yourself:
  • Which teacher, mentor or guide has helped me see more - and be more?
  • How has what they taught or showed me changed my life? My world view?
  • How have I acted upon what I learned?
  • How am I continuing their teaching by guiding others - whether in conversation, formal mentoring or, simply, in how I lead my life?
Then, if you get the chance, make sure you find a way to say, "Thank you." Not only will they appreciate it, they deserve it.