I am not a big on giving advice. Advice normally comes as an opinion or recommendation as to what action should be taken. It’s that last piece about ‘action to be taken’ which is why I am not big on giving advice.
Inherently I don’t like to tell anyone what to do in any given situation. I am always pleased to offer my opinion in most any situation. I am always happy if my opinion is considered. I am always delighted if my opinion is perceived as being of value. But that’s as far as it goes.
I’ve worked with many people who love to give advice…and even with some would be outright annoyed if their advice was not taken. And maybe this is also part of why I steer clear of advice giving.
Conversely I am very big on receiving advice – any advice from anyone on anything. Not that I ever commit to act on advice offered. But I always commit to listening intently and I always consider in depth before I make any decision on action. In fact I often go out of my way to solicit feedback…asking colleagues and friends for their input.
Ours is a non-deterministic industry. We are seldom presented with black and white questions…yes or no answers. Opinions and ideas; suggestions and options are priceless. Key to success is assessing, ranking, deciding and acting.
I can still remember the best advice I ever got. And it was given over 10 years ago. I had just been appointed to my first global leadership role. I was excited. I was nervous. And I made what turned out to be a great decision. I walked into the office of the leader I was replacing…sat myself down…and asked for advice in my new role.
Keep your blinds open…locally and globally. Was the first. The offices we occupied in those days were all glass – no solid walls. Over the years occupants had arranged for blinds to be fitted to give some privacy. And privacy does have its use in any office – we all have to undertake confidential or personal work some time. But this first advice was a reflection that many office occupants left their blinds closed so that no-one who passed could ever see them or see what they were doing.
‘Keep your blinds open’ was a message about being visible, being open and being approachable. Simple and powerful and something I still work to emulate – both literally and philosophically. But this wasn’t the best advice. That came next.
Don’t ever doubt yourself. That was it. Well there was some more color commentary about how anytime I ever found myself doubting my ability, that I should pinch myself and move on. How time spent doubting or worrying is thinking time wasted. But the lasting impact and (ten year plus) value was from those four words. Don’t ever doubt yourself.
We all find ourselves in situations where we feel anxious or worried. Almost by definition this is what personal growth is all about – no longer feeling comfortable or in control…that feeling of being stretched as a scientist; as a leader or as a person. And this is where – and why – my best (received) advice is so powerful. In moments of stretch and challenge it is so easy for self-doubt to creep in. And the one true certainty about self doubt is that it leads to missed opportunity.
It is our skill and experience; our instinct and insight that have lead us to these moments. It is our ability that will take us to our future.
Don’t ever doubt yourself.