Do you want advice?

A while back Udo Pracht tweeted:

I’m totally pissed by those coaches who are “solving” my problems (w/o permission!) when I thought I was just having a chat with them.

I guess that for people who spend a great deal of their time thinking about how to make things better, such as coaches and system thinkers, it is second nature to be helpful. And it’s hard to refrain oneself and not give advice about problems, “just” because advice wasn’t asked.

At least it is for me. I’m certainly guilty of more than one instance of unasked advice. Sometimes I genuinely think I’ve seen the light and, man, it’s beautiful! I want other people to see it, too! Trying to make the world better is in my very core.

Unfortunately there’s a fine line between being helpful and obnoxious. There’s a German saying capturing this perfectly:

“Das Gegenteil von gut ist gut gemeint”
“Well-intentioned is the opposite of well done”

Being on the receiving end of unasked advice is a decidedly unpleasant experience: There was this one dinner with 3 very nice, “helpful” coaches. At one point I described a difficult situation at work and suddenly they were all over me. One idea chased the other. Mostly ones that I’d already tried or considered and decided against. It stopped being a nice dinner and felt more like an attack in which I had to defend my (in)actions.

Ever since I try hard not to be on the giving end. I’m not quite at Udo’s ideal yet:

A really smart coach asks for permission to help – in every situation! Do it like @johannarothman, say: “We can talk about it, IF YOU LIKE?”

But I’m listening more and asking more often what people have already tried. And I try to remember that unasked advice won’t help anyway.  Advice is only useful when it’s received and thought about. And for that it needs to be wanted.

So, should I get carried away, please call me on it. And for past lapses: A big fat Sorry!

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This entry was posted in Fairly Good Practice, Food for Thought. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Do you want advice?

  1. I see you provide examples from outside the workplace. Does this also apply to the workplace? What do you do when management pays for the coach to come in and fix the team, but the team just wants to get on with their jobs?

  2. Corinna says:

    Hi Kurt! Tricky question. I try not to be too “missionary” at my job, either. It’s difficult because I’m supposed to spread agile. Whenever there’s an opportunity I tell what I’ve seen working in my previous job to show people options. Time will tell how that works out. I guess as a coach it’s at least as difficult. Pointing out advantages for those you’re supposed to “agilize” can’t hurt.

    Anyway I’ve got this hypothesis that those hiring coaches to make others more agile are the ones most in need of becoming agile themselves… But that’s a whole other story 😉

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