A colleague was concerned whether her advice was helping someone. Too many times, we focus on the advice rather than the process of giving advice. The real key to helping others is that you don’t have to be right. The best help is where you help others help themselves.
It’s a matter of encouraging, even challenging people to think along different lines, to look at problems from a different perspective. This develops their problem-solving skills and decision-making capabilities. In fact, good advice that doesn’t encourage people to think is worse than bad advice that does.
It’s similar to a math problem where we simply tell people the answer rather than showing them how to arrive at one. It’s similar to a job that we do for people rather than showing them how to do it. Thinking, not knowledge, is a source of true power.
Simply talking about a problem is helpful too. This along with good questions can go a long way toward triggering a brainstorming event within the individual. We don’t need a group of five, ten or a hundred to brainstorm. We can create a similar free association of ideas within a single person.
We also need to keep in mind that good advice is largely arbitrary. It’s conditional upon the person, time, situation and group. Since every event is unique, people need to tailor advice. They can only do this if they’ve learned how to think through problems, if they’ve learned how to solve problems and make decisions. They can’t do this if others have thought or made decisions for them.
If advisors only focus on giving advice, people will become dependent upon advisors and never grow.