Giving and seeking advice is a leadership skill that is useful for anyone in the workplace to master. Research from Harvard Business School found leaders who do so effectively will also likely hold sway in the workplace. The key, however, is to request and offer advice authentically, both to your own managers and your direct reports, say researchers and professors David A. Garvin and Joshua D. Margolis. Doing so can help you build political capital, but you’ll lose it quickly by being fake.
Seeking and giving advice isn’t a trait you’re born with. Like any leadership competency, it can be learned and cultivated. Influencing opinions, building consensus and diplomatically pointing out paths toward answers are all ways people can work on giving and receiving advice in their efforts to develop their leadership skills.
How to Offer Advice
Advising others doesn’t involve telling them how to do things, says career coach Bernadette Boas. “To know how to give or receive advice effectively is to understand the real meaning of ‘advice’ – as guidance or recommendations. It is not opinion or judgment, demands or commands. It must be be shared freely and authentically, while peppered with one’s own experience.” You’ll lose credibility if you dictate to others how they should work or solve problems, instead of working collaboratively, taking an indirect approach to offering advice or offering feedback.
You can establish your own credibility by sharing your team’s suggestions with supervisors, says career coach Laura Gmeinder. When you support your team, you build trust and show they can be a strong resource regardless of how a project is going.
“Above all, leaders are there to inspire their team,” Gmeinder says. Open communication can build up your team and will also help you build credibility. But you must careful not to talk behind team member’ backs to others in the group. If you have to vent, you should reach out to a trusted peer or mentor who’s removed from the situation.
How to Receive Advice
The way leaders get advice from others matters too. You undermine yourself if you ask for advice from co-workers, managers or team members, and then shoot down every suggestion they present. Doing this shows you’re not really looking for advice; you’re looking for agreement.
“Be open to your employees’ suggestions,” Gmeinder says. “Take time to think about what they are saying and if it rings true circle back to share how you are implementing a suggestion and then walk the walk and change your behavior.”
Company leaders and entry-level employees alike have something to offer — knowledge, expertise, experiences and learned lessons, Boas says. Leaders never stop learning and should seek advice throughout their careers and can mentor those younger than them as well, she says.
“True leaders understand their role is to serve those around them, without agenda or personal gain. To gain credibility of any kind, one must be pure and true in serving those around them. Everything else will take care of itself.” Boas says. Building this political strength in the workforce can help develop employees into leaders, and make leaders more effective.
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