With all the different political and business agendas fighting to get heard, it is often difficult to lose sight of what the truth is. This is true of China with the rest of the world, and also very true of the business world. When this happens, it’s very difficult to step back from the respective agendas, take a deep breath and a fresh look without becoming angry or cynical.
Giving advice and insights are a sometimes difficult skill to learn, but they are very important. I firmly believe that the world would be a better place if people knew how to give advice better. For many people, it’s very difficult to learn this important and under-utilized skill.
Giving advice is especially difficult within large organizations, where the truth may be readily apparent but where the management or leadership does not want to listen. Communications is a two-way street; someone has to speak and someone has to listen.
So what can you do to insure your chances of success and being listened to?
- Pick the right time. Speak only when that person is ready to listen. Often, that means when that person’s idea has failed, sometimes miserably.
- Don’t gloat over the mistake they just made, or say something like “I told you so!” That is a sure way to make sure that your message doesn’t get heard; you will not last in the organization, even though your message may be right.
- Don’t personalize the mistake they made, even though it may have resulted in millions in losses or damage. This doesn’t help either.
- Offer your suggestion in the form of a solution which you have given deep thought to. However, don’t go into detail to explain it unless you are asked to.
- Keep it short. Get to the point, say it in as few words as possible, and unless you are asked to stay, walk away. Senior and executive management have little time to think about things on their own, so leave them alone so that they can think. If your suggestion is a good one, then it will stand up to scrutiny.
- Choose a time when they are alone with you. Never bring up the advice in front of other people; if you do you run the risk of making them appear silly in front of a large group of people, which is never a good thing.
- Don’t bring up advice in meetings; most meetings are not a good place for discussion. Too many groups have competing agendas.
- Learn to write well. One of the most under-utilized tools in an office is the memo. Discuss the situation, lay out your case, and send it to the right people for review and discussion. The goal of a good memo is to start an intelligent discussion; keep that in mind.
- Don’t give advice anonymously. If you believe in your advice and that it has value, stand by it and let everyone know it is yours, and that you are willing to go up or down with it.
- Keep emotion out of it and keep the tone neutral. Use logic to make your point.
- Keep it open-ended so that the listener can offer his/her point of view if they want to. If they do, you may have a conversation, which is a good thing.
- Always be diplomatic.
What other ideas do you have about giving advice?