For the purist coaches, the idea of providing a client with advice is almost taboo as we believe that the answer lies within. This is true but if we have additional knowledge or information that might be helpful, surely it also beholds us to share this so that the client can make an even more informative decision. The trick of course is how you impart this knowledge. It should be presented in such a manner that the client can process but they still retain the choice as to whether to use or not.
In a recent HBR article, the pitfalls of seeking advice were presented which then lead to some strategies for ensuring it is done effectively. Authors Margolis and Garvin provide the following step by step approach to providing sound advice so that it has the maximum impact. This is viewed from the perspective of the person providing the advice.
Step 1 – Find the Right Fit – are you the right person to offer this type of support?
Step 2 – Develop a Shared Understanding – build alignment around the challenge but do not assume ownership
Step 3 – Craft Alternatives – assist with identifying all the possibilities
Step 4 – Converge on a Decision – prioritize and then select desired actions
Step 5 – Put into Action – provide support and accountability
This is based on considerable research in multiple industries and, if anything, serves to validate much of what coaching is all about. Advice can always be provided so long as it is presented as information that the client has freedom to accept or reject. Avoid being directive and instead be suggestive. An example might be, “I had a client (or report) in a similar situation and they did the following…………… what do you think?” All too often, leaders, managers, mentors and even some coaches (with the best of intentions) go too far by telling somebody what they should do; consequently they can assume ownership. So the next time somebody seeks your advice, don’t be so quick to solve their problem, but rather follow the steps above.