Asking for and actually getting good advice is more of a science than one might think. They way one begins the conversation is important. Keep the tone as positive as possible. Something simple and direct—I’d love you advice—will do the trick.
One should immediately identify the kind of advice they are seeking and after their opening line address the topic in the form of a question. Come to the conversation prepared with questions and specific details. Make sure you clearly define the problem. Stay on topic so you aren’t wasting someone’s time with a wandering conversation.
Additionally, take time to consider who is the right person to ask for advice from. People often go to friends or family members for advice because they are comfortable speaking to them. However, that doesn’t make that person the right one to ask. You need someone with knowledge and experience with whatever it is you are dealing with.
Don’t ask too many people. You can’t follow everyone’s advice and there are diminishing returns with too many opinions to analyze.
Don’t ask for advice if what you are seeking is validation or praise. If one has no intention of seriously considering another’s opinion, don’t waste anyone’s time.
In the American culture we have traditionally viewed great leaders as almost super-human in their strength. But of course, this strength is not often thought of as purely physical. Society has viewed great leaders as emotionally strong to the point of stoicism. Or we might think of it as mental of physical stamina.
Whatever the case may be, all leaders are human, and humans are vulnerable. Good leaders should view showing their vulnerability from time to time, by asking for help, an asset. A good leader should not think in terms of showing any vulnerability as a weakness.
There are two clear reasons why trying to be more than human isn’t a good plan. First, it is unsustainable. Life will eventually find a way to put a weakness, flaw or fault in our path and we will need help to overcome it.
Second, it isn’t good leadership. If we all can agree that leadership is about connection we can agree on this second point. We know that people will only work hard, create and risk for you if they feel connected. How can one create this level of trust by only putting our strengths on display? When the time comes for a leader to face one of their weakness they may come of as dishonest or at worst an outright fraud.
The best thing to remember is that our struggles define us in equal measure as our successes. Being able to be honest about needing help is an essential trait of a great leader.