What makes advice strategic and great?

2 Sep

truthFirstly what is advice then?

The dictionary describes advice as being; an opinion or recommendation offered as a guide to action, conduct or way ahead. Therefore, strategic advice is an opinion, or a recommendation, that will give you an advantage over others, leverage, or a way to action what you intend to do.

It’s therefore not a Hot cliché – the likes of; “Inspire your team” and you will reap the benefits, “feedback is the breakfast of champions”, we have all heard these, always a winner, “great leadership advice”, but how do you pull that off anyway, if all of these clichés stem from attributes of strategy and not elements, if you have no report with a team yet, how can you inspire them? So is it still great advice or even advice at all? No!

No cliché is ever great or even good advice, or even advice for that matter, its sales talk and not great advice at all; great advice is something that takes us from cradle to grave. Giving good advice means turning the power of situational analysis on, creating insight, and understanding, and transferring that into straight, clear, actionable answers. Things that you can do in practice…

Now, if you think about it, most things in life then starts with us having to go/ or say “YES” to it, first, yes is somehow the prelude to any possible action. We normally seek advice on actionable items in our environment, or life, and business for that matter. That requires us to do, think and feel positive about it, so that we can say yes to it.

Yes, I will marry you – for instance is just a great example of how you have to commit, to an actionable decision, and start working towards making it work, and then making it a success, and them making it last – sustainable… that’s the whole process in a nut shell. So yes, and saying yes, requires us to seek advice.

This aspect of strategy – and almost everything we as living things do is part or becomes strategy that is driven by a desire to survive, prosper, and expand.  Early on in life I already realised that planning is the way to get what you want or need, and most of that did not come from books, or training, but trial and error, so too most of what I know about leadership didn’t come from having read (several) business books, any formal education, or things that I read up on or conferences or seminars  attended, or even leaders I have met, knew and worked with.

It came from self determination, a positive outlook, resilience, patience – is a virtue – its the learned ability to apply discipline to your thoughts when they become anxious over the outcome of a goal. Impatience breeds anxiety, fear, discouragement and failure and a mind-set that get one to go, and say yes, requires positive karma. (Karma is the total effect of a person’s actions – good and bad – and conduct – or lack thereof – during the successive phases of the person’s existence, that brings about good or bad things, emanating from energy, that goes where attention flows. So if you practice good, and concentrate on good – you will multiply same, and so to with bad.)

Some say great advice comes from having exercised the YES more than the NO, under varying circumstances, applying different styles of leadership, having practiced business principles under numerous circumstances. Thus having experience in many things. So experience is what is ultimately necessary to succeed, as well as a positive nature. Resilience is what draws us apart, and makes some more durable and others negative. It’s the lack or abundance of having said yes to experiences. Life lessons are never learnt in class, only in practice, only then does it grow and create an understanding of how to go over to action, and falling into a habit of saying YES.

The best leadership lessons I ever learned was having to say yes, yes to challenges, and opportunity, by deliberately taking on threats and calculated risk, herein I learned the hard way, what works and what doesn’t, and nothing of this from just one, but several others. you learn more about what not to do from others than what you do, about how to do it: yes also has a No to it. There it is the negative. If we lack passion and or conviction, if we have low drive and energy, our action list will suffer, and be empty for long periods. Then we stagnate. We need to have a bucket list – a thousand things to do before you die…

Passion without conviction is like truth without substance – just nice to talk about. Passion is something you grow, from wanting to be good, then better, and ultimately the best. It just doesn’t arrive one morning. In this life it’s the doer of deeds that count, that create passion in others, more than the contemplator of thoughts, you need to have a passion to persevere, no amount of positive thinking will float your boat long enough to be consistent, so you need a reason to get you out of bed, a project. Now that is strategic advice – as projects have goals, objectives, time lines and specific outcomes. Therefore it needs to be specific, and have a component of emotion, an emotional reward that you get somehow, before it will transform into passion.

Criticism is necessary and occasionally useful, it gets us to take note of the negatives, as long as we act on it as an opportunity, and asses them well; however it can never take the place of action, or be a substitute for it.

A true leader is the one that always has more things to do still, all diversified, once something is done, then he tends to have more places go to, and people to see, leaders like this have an agenda of action. They don’t just exist , and work, they live, because they full-fill all their dimensions of life; I like what writer Rumer Godden says, “Everyone is a house with four rooms: Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.” I can relate to this.  True leaders value  their own lives, careers and family, they always have a “To Do” list.

Having said that, every philosophy on leadership is also self-fulfilling, thus complete in itself, we are all different, individual, and pursue our own path, only when this path and TO DO list, adds value and usefulness, right there, then it becomes genuine, like a work of art, when it contains and produces the totality of worth, and substance – and starts appealing to others. Then we become useful.

When people can point to it and say, that is true leadership and or skill.

Then you still don’t have it nailed down. We cannot all fit into one shape; or so it’s argued, true, because we are individualised charters with each our own experiences and will, and for that purpose, every effort is made towards finding many ways of doing one thing great, or better as a survival trait of each species.

However with all this said, advice is universal, and could be adapted to fit any situation…

Here is some “advice”

Facts are fact, but emotional connotations are required to connect reasoning.

Be careful of pointing out the facts to people. You get two types of people that will want to give you advice; the facts driven guy, and then then the people’s person.

The facts driven guy relies mainly on things he considers to be data in support of facts, to be correct, and bases his whole argument on that very principle. Facts and figures are all important to them, especially in business. Whereas others operate from a totally different paradigm, they rely on a measure of truth; it just needs to seem believable then it is ok, to set their bearing straight. So we get specific and none-specific minds operating out there. Some demand facts to operate and others clarity.

Scientist say; It is Only when explaining the “logic and reasoning” behind a decision that one can be seen to be giving advice, being able to validate as to why you said what you said, thus creating the buy-in and commitment.

Most people don’t need validation, those who they trust will have a lot of advice to give — with a few exceptions —, and they will take it as truth or fact.  Normally they tend to generalize, as they are not themselves even authority’s, and just pass on what they know; regurgitated cliché, as facts. When in fact what we need is reasoning…

Truth is, in fact, facts are only valid to determine the point of departure, seldom do they stay valid beyond that point, as we dissect and debate things in depth, the facts change; things like charts, graphs, tables, results, etc., are useful as reference points—and then once used in the argument they are quickly forgotten. No longer fact, it was only an interpretation of things.

The same with truth, it’s what we believe it to be, not what others say it is, right, wrong, be aware it’s not always true, or truth for everyone, just because its truth to you.

Where as opposed to the people persons approach; where we want to connect people with facts, so they can say yes. Then we find that they can over dramatize, pull things out of context and over compensate for perceived flaws, or even weakness, its real politics.

Either way, you have two extremes, and they are neither right nor wrong, they are just two extremes of one equation called reasoning from different perspectives.

The trick is to find the middle ground, and achieve balance, the more “eye’s we get to see”, the better our view becomes of the subject, this can only be done through reasoning; sometimes friction, and even violence is necessary for people to change their views and or perceptions.

For it is said that War is just an extension of our political debate. Same principle applies in business and life. That’s just human nature. Some people are for a soft approach, in changing their conviction others hard, we need to find a workable solution towards getting them both to understand and then act without having to go to any extremes.

Great ideas are never found in presentations.

Presentations are a great way to share detailed and complex information, to create a reference point with. Presentations are a terrible way to share great ideas with others, because they have to interoperate it.

“After I drank too deeply from the Six Sigma (Six Sigma at many organizations simply means a measure of quality that strives for near perfection. Six Sigma is a disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects – 1986 Motorola) Kool-Aid” we do what is taught, tell that person with the idea to put it in writing, to present it, and explain it.

Great ideas can be captured in one or two sentences – and needs to be covered in that moment. In order for it to develop, the brain flashes ideas constantly, and if we don’t pick one and paint it, it hops on the next, and so on. When your employees, kids, spouse have those ideas. Brainstorm them there and then.

All you have to do is to be listening and your –audience – will love you for it, listening by the way get rewarded with more of same…

Performance punishment kills the flow of great ideas.

Your best employees tend to come up with the best ideas; reason being, they explore, experiment, and are more in touch with what works and what doesn’t.  It’s natural to assign responsibility for carrying out an idea to the person who came up with the idea. Plus, if that person is a great employee, it’s natural to want them to take responsibility, because they’re more likely to get it done.

Of course, your best employees are already working extremely hard, so assigning them responsibility every time they have a suggestion naturally stops their flow of ideas.

As one outstanding employee finally explained to me, don’t overload the willing donkey, you will break his will, and eventually his back if you do…

Sometimes the employee will welcome the responsibility for carrying out their own ideas. Then at other times they won’t, but care enough to point out the problem to them, and or come with a possible solution, for the actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts.

Over optimistic projections without facts are dangerous. Sharing only the positive of any project or plan always results in an exaggerated negative result.

Imagine you’re sharing the reasoning behind a decision with someone, your spouse, business partner/s, etc. Naturally, you will describe the positive outcomes of the project first, to get a buy in. So you sell all the positives and make sure they outshine any negative, because we want to be positive, and cheering, and confident to get the yes. However, emotional stimulation like that, tends to cloud our judgement, we need to think sober. Especially as strategist, when either getting or receiving advice, we have to factor in potential risk. Potential risk must never be down played; it should be entertained, better to know what to expect and to measure risk, than to ignore it… you cannot manage what you haven’t, or can’t measure…

People are programmed to instinctively be looking out for negatives; where the catch is, how this will affect me, my position, income, time etc.

Since almost everything has a silver lining when it’s introduced or for sale, then for someone else it has to have a black cloud or for at least a few. Never neglect the negatives, even if those negatives may only be a small potential risk. Talk openly about any downsides, risks, and vulnerability – especially when those downsides directly affect people/ plans, budgets, and employees. Show you understand, sketch the best and the worst case scenario, its implications, and what that might mean to your team, and how it could impact on them. By sharing we are building confidence, rapport, trust – sharing is caring – some once said – and it is.

When you freely discuss potential negatives, people not only respect you more, they often work harder to make sure that those potential negatives don’t occur, or re-occur at all.

Undisputable facts sometimes do not reveal cause and effect, especially where it concerns people, and how it will impact them

You’re smart. You’re talented. You’re educated. You are the Boss. You make all the hard decisions, no matter what it takes. You also understand how data works, its application, usefulness, and how to manipulate it? Then, data analysis is your best friend. If this is the case, then be aware that sometimes your data will lead you to an inescapable conclusion, and yet you should still make a totally different decision all together – instincts, and conscience should not be ignored – even in the face of overwhelming facts.

To destroy trust, people’s convictions, way of life, hope, dreams, just because you can, and have the power to, and you are right, even legally entitled to ends up defining all logic, and then becomes a moral question.

Paper exercises, plans, strategy, project charters, are all indispensable tools – but no more than critical listening and reasoning

Sure, everything works well on paper. It may even have worked in practice. But it could also have implications; as for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, it’s called cause and effect.  What we win in one instance, we could lose in another, careful consideration with planning is a must, as sudden changes could for instance screwed up the family lives of a number of great people and employees, always be mindful of cause and effect. There is other ways and means to achieve a goal if the impact socially is too great.

Sometimes our life decision should be based on more than just our critical analysis, logic, and thinking, and not even just business reasoning. Sometime we have to ignore the facts, and just chart the course with our instincts.

No decision should ever be made in a vacuum; consult, talk, share, enquire, because any decision must ultimately be carried out by one or many people.

I bet you know all these things, as they are common; you know things other people don’t know, and they know things you don’t know-until you listen to what they have to say, and not how they say it, then you should probably the one seeking advice, and not giving it then.

There needs to be a desire for us to do things well

Therefore; perseverance and continuing to learn things, coupled with an action item lists, is the best, surest, greatest way to succeed at whatever you do…as long as you say yes I can, and stay resilient; as you may stumble, you may even fall, how you get up and go all the way, is dictated by how much you want to succeed – an deep desire fuels success?

Personal style will trump academic reasoning

Any improvements contemplated, that could start impacting on corporate culture, must be carefully assessed for cause and effect, many of these things in the list of strategic advice given above are true and necessary. However, the crux is this; strategic advice boils down to how you communicate your intentions, give reasons and bring along as many people as you can with the changes you are facing, you need to think long and hard about these decisions you are contemplating, as they will be challenged and attacked. Way before you go over to action, still, without action, and the yes, there is no reason to plan at all. How you get people to act, is still a question of style…that no one can teach you. The theory just makes it easier to explain a style that works, or that people tend to gravitate to.

The problem with that is, style is a combination of experience, character and traits as well as skill, still a very hard act to copy and follow, so to each his own.

Take what you like, what appeals to you, test it, refine it and then style it to become your own. Text book leadership is just not deep, and or good enough today.

The reality is still hard, even if all the theory is soft

The moment you decide and say yes to anything, does realty kick in.

Reality tends to play by its own rules, and they can be brutal. Normally then, there is no more turning back. This is where the saying comes from, real leaders make the hard decisions and stick with it … You need to be as transparent and as ethically and morally as possible and communicate as best you know how and can. Just to be trusted, first step.

In charting the way forward after the yes.  You will be challenged in many ways. However in the end the job needs to get done, people will not all agree with you always. Make peace with it.

Business as with implementing strategy requires decisions and actions, this is not a democracy in motion, nor does everyone get a vote in it as we would like to believe, or get a a say on everything.

This is real life, this is the hard reality of doing things, and how things get done, and what happen when setting out. Expect that some “bones will break” – under the pressure of change, friendships will end – “some necks will snap”, from all the fast changes in direction, some people will not cope and “toes will get crushed”, as will egos get bruised, it really gets nasty at times.

But strategy must prevail… In order to find success in the scheme (or implementing any radical changes required) there is only one way – fast and accurate. Where things get done fast and correct, regardless of all the human rights, unions, baggage, politics and labour laws. then people are generally happy. However, what happens when things don’t get done, then they take to resistance. This then stonewalls anything else that follows. What happens to people when we move forward with change is not always exciting; fair, great, or pleasant at all, very contrary to cliché, it’s much more of a “for better or for worse” scenario out there then. not everyone involved in any venture will enjoy their job all the time – fact.

Some have to suffer, so that others may experience joy. Although the general aim is still to bring people along, even kicking and screaming at times,  and to apply a sense of fair practice as far as possible, where the principles and practices of the social order is implemented, so that all work gets done as fair and humane as possible.

life is not always fair, I am sorry but you have to think and know that disaster is just one bad decision away, sacrifice, sweat, pain and dark days too will cloud your better judgement, and then someone will have to pay the price.

We all do our best, and sometimes we share, and end up a little short, and people get hurt…emotionally, physically, socially, financially or whatever…the point is; advice is never perfect, we have to use it at our own peril.

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2 Responses to “What makes advice strategic and great?”

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  1. What makes advice strategic and great? « Strategic Management - September 2, 2012

    […] makes advice strategic and great? 2 Sep What makes advice strategic and great?. Share this:EmailDiggPrintFacebookRedditStumbleUponTwitterLinkedInFB Fan PageFB CommunityGoogle + […]

  2. Index of posts on this blog – Strategic Management « Strategic Management - December 11, 2012

    […] What makes advice strategic and great?. […]

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