Bad Advice: Small Business Tips from a Small Business Coach

As a small business coach, I am asked for small business tips all the time. “Tip” is a code word for advice. I don’t give advice; me giving advice inherently would be bad advice.  When faced with a decision, asking for and taking advice (see it’s meaning here) plants a seed that will grow and ultimately destroy your small business. Imagine, something as simple as taking advice from a fellow small business owner resulting in losing everything you have spent your life working for?

If you wish to avoid that, keep reading. Before you do, check out last weeks blog, so you are clear on what the word “decision” means when I use it.

This week’s blog will explain what actually happens when you ask for and give advice, by explaining something called the drama triangle. Once I challenge you to consider your use of the word “advice”, as well as asking for and giving it, I will coach you through some practical application (from my own experience) on how to empower yourself, ask the right questions, exit the drama triangle and enter the empowerment triangle. When I applied this concept to my business, my life, my family and my role as a man with a purpose, it completely empowered me in all aspect of my life.  It will do the same for you.  This is not my advice or opinion, it is a fact.

Tweet: Never ask for advice, never give advice, as @TheRock says “it doesn’t matter what you think!” Your advice only disempowers the advice seeker

When faced with a challenge, problem or opportunity, most people ask for advice. Asking another person to give you their opinion about what you should do, choose, apply, or take action on puts the accountability on them to fix your problem. When this person gives you advice, they become the hero, who has now fixed your problem. By the way, there is usually a villain who created the problem. This scenario is called the drama triangle. The underlying theme is each person not taking ownership, acceptability and responsibility for the role of solving an issue. The issue must be solved, and the intention to solve it is good. However, the method creates drama, lack of accountability and the cycle perpetuates whether the advice is good advice of bad advice.

Let me share an example. As a small business coach, I work weekly with CEOs and small business leaders. I was on a call with a CEO when he asked me “what I thought” about the comp plan for his sales team. My initial reaction is to answer his question, that’s what I do, I am the ‘fix your problem/answer guy’, right? Wrong, I am a coach, not an advice giver. Fixing my clients problem makes me the hero and him the victim. The villain is this evil broken comp plan that is wrecking his business.

It doesn’t matter what I think about his comp plan. It is not my company, not my comp plan, not my sales leader. My responsibility is to inspire and ignite my client to make a decision about what the actual issue is (which by the way, had nothing to do with his comp plan). If the comp plan actually was the real issue, it is still not my place to give my opinion about something that is not mine to begin with.

I challenged my client to stop asking questions about the comp plan, and tell me why that question matters anyway. As we discussed this, I reflected some of my clients language back to him on our Skype call. I basically asked a question, he gave me feedback, and I shared his language back to him. I typed his responses word for word on our Skype chat. I asked, ‘Why does the comp plan matter?’ Then I asked, ‘Can I share an experience with you?’ Since I have experience with comp plans, not that it matters in this case, as well as what the real issue was (his behavioral and language patterns and programming), this makes me relevant to speak into his life. Since he pays me a boat load of money to coach him, I would be doing a great disservice to him if I did anything other than coach him.

After a challenging, emotional and energy packed exchange, a breakthrough happened. The breakthrough involved what he as a man believes with 100% absolute certainty surrounding his worth to the world, his family, his business and community. The initial questions he needed advice on was a symptom of a bigger disease: a massive disempowering belief surrounding his worth. If I would have fixed his comp plan problem, hung up, took his money, and then felt awesome about being the hero, I would have caused him massive damage. Instead, he hung up the phone inspired and ignited to go win again.

  • Ask yourself: “Why is this person asking me for advice?” Before you open your mouth, respond to the text, email, etc., consider this: do you have any credibility and real world experience surrounding the real issue to speak into this person’s life?
  • If the answer is yes, acknowledge and appreciate that they came to you and then decide if you accept the responsibility at the time to help them. If you a accept, continue on, if you do not, make it clear you do not accept the responsibility at that time.
  • Realize the initial question, most of the time, is not the real issue. There is always a question behind the question.  Your role as a coach is to dig and find the real issue.  You do so by implementing the following:
  • Reflect and repeat the question back to the person asking it to clarify that you understand the question.  Example, “So you are asking me what I think you should change about your comp plan?”  Once there is clarification:
  • Ask Why, “Why does the comp plan matter, and is your question really about the comp plan?”  Keep asking why.  Never stop asking why. At this moment you will feel a sense of frustration, energy shift, and challenge being injected into the conversation.
  • Remember that humans all respond differently to challenge, confrontation and problems (I speak a lot about this in my “Your Leadership Language” Interactive Keynote). The conversation will play out based on how you and the person you are coaching respond to confrontation and challenge.
  • Continue to dig until the root of the problem is exposed. Think about each why question as a small digging away of dirt from the base of a tree until a root is exposed.
  • Identify the root as being empowering or disempowering.  It is your duty to coach, not be the hero.  You must lead the person to the root.  Many times you must circle around the tree and approach it from different angles until the person sees the root.  Once the person sees the root, ask them to decide what they do with the root.
  • If, and only when, they decide to cut out or keep the root, hold them accountable to doing just that.  Never do it for them.  Give them the ax, let them swing it.

Remember this:

Tweet: Never ask for advice, never give advice, as @TheRock says “it doesn’t matter what you think!” Your advice only disempowers the advice seeker

Decide right now if you are ever again going to ask for advice and/or give advice? Remember last weeks blog. Draw a line in the sand.  Make a decision, right now.  What did you decide? What does this decision look like moving forward in your identity as a man/woman, your life, your family and your business. Share your thoughts below…………………………………………

It doesn’t matter what you think! Share your experience instead. If you are not getting caffeinated with me on a weekly basis, click the cup of coffee above to do so.