Tag Archives: Advice

2 Essential Rules for Giving and Getting Advice

Advice is a part of life. Smart people listen to advice, think about it, and decide later for themselves. I’ve been on both sides of the advice exchange as much as anybody, as a son, father, and grandfather, sure; but also as a business employee, a business founder, owner, and manager. And as a so-called expert, teacher, writer, blogger, and ask-the-expert answerer.

Having dealt with this for several decades, I think there are two absolutely essential rules for dealing with advice. This includes business and personal advice.

1. Give advice like you give a gift.

giftYou choose the gift, wrap it up, and present it to somebody. After you do, it’s theirs. You don’t stand over them to make sure they use it, right? Can you give advice without investing yourself in whether or not it’s taken?

Once you give the advice, let it go. Let the recipient decide what to do with it. With gift giving, ownership changes hands. So too with advice giving. You don’t own it. You don’t care what the receiver does with it. If you do care, then it wasn’t really advice, and it wasn’t really a gift.

Don’t follow up. Don’t ask the advice recipient what happened next. Let it go.

2. Receive advice like a gift.

Don’t we teach children to say thank you and, whether or not they like the gift, to pretend they love it? We say: “That’s just what I always wanted.” We don’t say “that’s the last thing I needed. I can’t use it.”

But how often do people react to the gift of advice by making it clear they didn’t need it? I do it, too. It seems to be some kind of negative instinct. Sure, you know everything, I understand. I do too. But is there a chance that somebody, someday, might be able to offer you something useful? Better to stay open to the possibility, right?

Instead of rushing to show how useless that advice was, if you don’t like or want or need or want to use the advice you’re given, act as if it were a gift. Put it aside for the moment as if you value it, and then let it go. Better yet, you open your eyes, think about it, and then make your own decision. Base it on the merits.

If you don’t follow that advice, don’t mention it again. If the giver asks, explain that you valued it and thought about it thoroughly and finally adapted it to your exact situation. And thank them again.

(Image: Tanya len/Shutterstock)

Turning Good Advice into Bad News

Imagine, if you will, this scene:

You are in a group of angel investors talking with entrepreneurs looking for funding. Or you are in a group of venture competition judges giving feedback to teams after the judging is over. The entrepreneurs listen intently, nod, they’re understanding, and then suddenly one or more of their faces change, crestfallen, disappointed, cheated. Something that was just said triggered an immediate reaction:

But we put that in, they say, because so-and-so (the last angel group they talked to, or the judges of the last contest they entered) recommended it.  We specifically changed our plan to accommodate feedback. And now your feedback is in exactly the opposite direction.

I see it a lot. I’ve seen it for years in the judging of the venture competitions. Lately I’ve seen it in reviewing potential angel investments.

For example, one that comes up a lot is whether you go for the broad sweeping expansive view of future market potential, which some groups like and other groups tag as lack of focus or realism.

I like focus myself. Keep it manageable. Narrow targets. Getting to $5, $10, $20 million in three or five years, but more in control. More realistic.

A lot of other judges want to see a bigger pot of gold at the far end of a more distant rainbow. “How do you get to hundreds of millions?”

So they go for big, because the judges say so. Then the next time, it’s “but you have too many targets; you’re doing too much.” And then there’s that look again, the disappointment. We’re supposed to do what the last judges suggested.