Tame the advice-giving monster by building an [adaptive] habit of staying curious a little longer and rushing to advice-giving a little more slowly. ~Michael Bungay Stanier
The advice-giving monster, what a vivid image (thank you Michael Bungay Stanier). Unfortunately, we’ve created workplaces that practice far more advice-giving than asking and exploring possibilities. There are three types of questions that I believe we ask far more frequently than we realize that could be “tamed.” We think we’re “asking” but really we’ve only dressed-up our advice-giving as a question. Anyone leading with bold grace will adapt to others, and moving to advice-giving a little more slowly is a step in that direction. These example are borrowed from Tony Stoltzfus’ Coaching Questions.
Advice-giving: Pieces of Advice with a Question Mark Pasted On
These are solution-oriented questions like “Shouldn’t you check in with your boss before you act on this?” This type of question can be easy to spot because typically the second word in the question is “you.” “Should you, could you, will you, don’t you, can you, have you, are you.”
The solution is to follow your curiosity. Go back to the thing that made you curious and ask about that. In this example you might ask, “What kind of channels do you need to go through before you act on this?”
Advice-giving: Putting Our Spin on Their Words
Interpretive questions are those where we put a spin on what the other person is saying. For example, someone says, “It’s hard to get to work on Monday mornings and I’m bored with my current assignment.” You then ask the question, “How long have you hated your job?” That’s a lot of interpretation.
The solution is to use their own words, don’t interpret. So you might ask, “How long have you been bored with your current assignment?” You’re not putting your own spin on what they said. When we interpret, we erode trust.
Advice giving: Leading the Other Person to a Specific Answer
Through our “question” we are trying to lead the other person to a specific answer, maybe even subtly. We may not even realize that we are asking a leading question and propelling the conversation in a certain direction. For example, “How would you describe how you’re feeling: discouraged?” “If you take this new position will it take time and energy away from your family?” Both are leading questions.
The solution is to provide multiple options, or the opposite. In these examples you could ask, “How would you describe how you’re feeling: are you discouraged, excited, upset, or what?” “If you take this new position will it take time and energy away from your family? Or, will this open doors to get you the kind of family time you truly want?”
Tame the advice-giving monster, adapt to others, and lead with bold grace.