I was in the UK all week. I had visitors. Visitors from the US, UK, mainland Europe and Asia. It was an unusual week – most of my time was spent thinking internally about what we do, could do more of and should do less of. But a week interjected by conversations with partners and potential partners about…well…about what we do, could do more of and should do less of.
Such weeks are excellent weeks. I presented some; I listened a lot; I observed all the time; I admired everything; I told a few stories; I thought and smiled and laughed.
I learned a great deal. I learned again how inspiring our people are; how engaging our partners are and how rewarding our work is. How much our teams want to deliver so well. How exciting our opportunity is. How important the ‘big picture’ really is, but how blank that picture can be without detail. How often I am surprised by ‘what happens next’…how important that uncertainty (and its resolution) is to my personal satisfaction.
We all ask for advice and ideas all the time. Some of us more than others. I try to seek input as much as I can. I know I enjoy hearing what people think. I have learned how much value I get from advice or even just views – what they see or think – of others. My two most common expressions are ‘what do you think’ (in email) and ‘what’s going on’ (in meetings). Both are habit – of course – but both are designed to seek out information, ideas, experiences or beliefs…or all of the above.
I am often asked for advice or for opinion. I am good with opinion. I am less good with advice. There’s a subtlety (at least in my mind). Opinion feels more like options to be considered…advice feels more like telling someone what they should do. In most every situation anyone who asks me for ‘advice’ will always have their own ideas about what they want to do, or believes they should do, next. Even when I recognise that they just want me to tell them what to do…I resist (to a fault I am sure).
At times of change…when things are happening around us and to us…we tend to seek more advice. This makes sense. More things are happening. More unusual or less common events are occurring. More situations that can feel to be of great significance. More situations that we have not experienced before. What should I do? What would you do?
My best answer? Well I don’t know the best answer. The best answer has to be what we say at that moment in response to that question. In that situation, with that individual or that team. I have to believe this. Every situation – what and who and why – is unique. And so the answer has to be unique.
My most common answer, though, is a simple one – do the right thing. In truth, this is as much about my faith in people, as it is anything else. Do the right thing is all about who is involved, and about them trusting themselves individually and collectively as much as I do.
Conversations after this ‘advice’ frequently and naturally focus on what doing the right thing looks like…who needs to be involved, what information is needed. And I always look to encourage discussion of ‘when’ we need to decide.
Whenever we have the right people, in the right place, looking to do the right thing…and if we give, or take, enough time, then amazing, unexpected and inspiring solutions will always appear…and if we don’t…they won’t.