Career Advice | Coaching |Mentoring | Workplace | Think tank
THE OFFICE: “Performance Review”
Photo: Justin Lubin/NBCU Photo Bank
“Can I pick your brain?”
Five words that make up the most thoughtless, irritating and generic way to ask for advice — and any person who is a rock star in their industry has heard it more than a dozen times.
The phrase, while well-intentioned, is overused, vague and way too open-ended. When conversations start this way, there’s no telling where it’ll go or how long it’ll take.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for giving — and receiving — advice. Offering advice is a sign of good leadership, and asking for advice is a sign of intelligence. If the exchange goes well, both parties benefit.
“The whole interaction is a subtle and intricate art. It requires emotional intelligence, self-awareness, restraint, diplomacy and patience,” Harvard Business School professors Joshua D. Margolis and David A. Garvin wrote in a 2015 Harvard Business Review article.
But the process can derail in many ways. It can quickly lead to “frustration, decision gridlock, subpar solutions, frayed relationships and thwarted personal development,” according to Margolis and Garvin.
To avoid those consequences, here’s some guidance on how to ask for advice without annoying the other person:
Start with a positive tone
Negotiation skills | Workplace |Success | Career advice
by Amy Gallo | March 17, 2016
Originally appeared in Harvard Business Review
Your boss proposes a new initiative you think won’t work. Your senior colleague outlines a project timeline you think is unrealistic. What do you say when you disagree with someone who has more power than you do? How do you decide whether it’s worth speaking up? And if you do, what exactly should you say?
What the Experts Say
It’s a natural human reaction to shy away from disagreeing with a superior. “Our bodies specialize in survival, so we have a natural bias to avoid situations that might harm us,” says Joseph Grenny, the coauthor of Crucial Conversations and the cofounder of VitalSmarts, a corporate training company. “The heart of the anxiety is that there will be negative implications,” adds Holly Weeks, the author of Failure to Communicate. We immediately think, “He’s not going to like me,” “She’s going to think I’m a pain,” or maybe even “I’ll get fired.” Although “it’s just plain easier to agree,” Weeks says that’s not always the right thing to do. Here’s how to disagree with someone more powerful than you.
Be realistic about the risks
Most people tend to overplay the risks involved in speaking up. “Our natural bias is to start by imagining all the things that will go horribly wrong,” Grenny says. Yes, your counterpart might be surprised and a little upset at first. But chances are you’re not going to get fired or make a lifelong enemy. He suggests you first consider “the risks of not speaking up” — perhaps the project will be derailed or you’ll lose the team’s trust — then realistically weigh those against the potential consequences of taking action.
Workplace | Communication | Career advice
by Travis Bradberry | LinkedIn Influencer | 03-20-16
When you’re a nice person, conflict can be a real challenge. Not that mean people are any better at conflict; they just enjoy it more.
New research from Columbia University shows that how you handle conflict can make or break your career. The researchers measured something scientifically that many of us have seen firsthand—people who are too aggressive in conflict situations harm their performance by upsetting and alienating their peers, while people who are too passive at handling conflict hinder their ability to reach their goals.
The secret to effective handling of conflict is assertiveness—that delicate place where you get your needs met without bullying the other person into submission. Assertive people strike a careful balance between passivity and aggression (that is, they never lean too far in either direction).