To become a good advisor technical brilliance alone is not enough. You must have some good interpersonal skills too.
Often, while discharging your duties at work you are required to provide advice based on your technical expertise to others say your boss, a client or a colleague. But to your surprise your well-intentioned advice frequently falls on deaf ears. You are baffled at why your suggestions though technically sound have not been implemented.
Herein lies the catch. To become a good advisor technical brilliance alone is not enough. Along with good advice you must have some good interpersonal skills too. You are wrong if you think advice giving is just a logical process. It has an emotional undercurrent that you must take into account. Before you can influence others, you must build a good rapport with them and earn their trust. Unless you learn to recognise and respond to others’ emotions, you cannot become an effective advisor. Your success greatly depends on your ability to understand their personalities and adjust the advice-giving process accordingly. Therefore the next time you are asked for advice, remember to do the following to improve your effectiveness:
Choose right words: While giving advice pay careful attention to language. Suggestions for improvement may carry an implied indication that things are not being done well at the moment. This feeling switches the other person into a defensive mode. So first you must find a way to convince him that your intention is not to criticise but to help him. Choose the right words to express your views so that it comes across with respect and any implied criticism is softened.
Understand perspectives: If you talk directly about how to improve things, you may not find instant takers. To be really effective as an advisor you must know how to influence the thinking of other people. As a first step, try to gain good insights into what they think and why. When dealing with more than one person such as committees you must take extra pains to collect this data. Each person in the group brings a different perspective to the problem you have been asked to help with. So find out beforehand who is going to attend the meeting. Call each of them in advance to find out their take on the issue. When you understand their individual views and concerns you will be better equipped to provide expert guidance and secure a buy-in for a preferred solution.
Be a guide: The most effective way to influence a client, subordinate or a colleague is to help him find the solution himself. Instead of saying what you want him to do, develop a gradual reasoning process that helps him arrive at the logical conclusion himself. The whole process should involve more of questioning and listening than suggesting improvements. While helping the person solve a problem you can ask questions like:
Why do you think this problem occurred?
How can we do things differently?
What pros and cons do you think exist for the various options?
What do you think is the best option under the current circumstances?
By helping him discover all the available options, their costs, benefits as well as risks involved, you can gently guide him to the preferred solution.
Emotional support: People in general look forward to support, affirmation, approval and appreciation from others. This also applies to people whom you need to give advice be it your boss, client or a colleague. In order to make them listen to your advice and accept it you must develop the right behavioural skills that ensure the kind of emotional support they expect along with your technical guidance.
Customise: Tailor your advice giving approach to suit the individual who has sought your help. Depending on the situation and the other person’s preferred style of interaction, you have to make amends to your approach. The key to success is to be sufficiently flexible and discover what works best in any given situation.