Picture a young, bright-eyed me, fresh-faced and bushy-tailed, just promoted to my first management gig. I was as excited as a kid in a candy store, ready to share my infinite wisdom (read: bullshit) with my team. Then comes my first one-on-one with a team member. They’re struggling with a project, and I, being the savior complex-ridden newbie manager I was, jumped in with my brilliant advice. Only problem? I had zero clue about the technicalities of what they were doing. It was like trying to instruct a pilot on how to fly a plane while my ass had never left the ground. You can imagine how that turned out.

Now, why am I embarrassing myself by sharing this little nugget from my past? Because it’s bloody important. Mastering the art of advice is a critical part of leadership and decision-making. It requires more than just shooting the shit and hoping it sticks. It’s a craft that needs to be honed, a skill that needs to be learned.

And that brings me to my first bone to pick. Some folks think these skills are like Christmas presents; you either wake up on Christmas morning and find them under the tree, or you’re shit out of luck. But that’s as far from the truth as it gets. Giving and receiving advice aren’t mystical “gifts” you’re either born with or not. They’re practical skills that you can learn, practice, and perfect.

So, what’s on the agenda today? We’re going to dive headfirst into the five stages of advising, and trust me, each one is a beast of its own. But don’t sweat it. I’ll be right there with you, guiding you through the muck and mire, so you come out the other side ready to conquer the world. Or, at the very least, ready to conquer your next advice-seeking or giving situation.

The Five Stages of Advising: An Overview

Stage 1: Finding the Right Fit

Our first stop is all about matchmaking. No, we’re not setting up your profile on a dating app, but we are trying to find the right fit. And just like in love, in advice too, not everyone is your soulmate. You can’t – and shouldn’t – be advising everyone on everything. You’re not a walking, talking Encyclopedia Britannica, are you? Knowing your expertise, recognizing the scope of your advice, and understanding the other person’s needs are crucial. Otherwise, you might end up playing a disastrous game of blindfolded darts.

Stage 2: Developing a Shared Understanding

Next up, we’ve got the Rosetta Stone of the advice world – developing a shared understanding. This is where you ensure you and the advice-seeker are speaking the same language. Too often, advice falls flat because people don’t take the time to ensure they’re on the same page. And no, it’s not about who’s got the bigger vocabulary. It’s about making sure your words, your meanings, your context are in sync. Get this wrong, and you might as well be trying to discuss the theory of relativity in Klingon.

Stage 3: Crafting Alternatives

Moving on, we come to the part that’s like a creative jam session – crafting alternatives. This ain’t a one-man show, folks. Giving advice isn’t about delivering a sermon from the mount. It’s a collaborative process, a back-and-forth, an exchange of ideas. And just like in a jam session, you throw in your ideas, they throw in theirs, and you come up with a sweet tune that hits all the right notes.

Stage 4: Converging on a Decision

Stage four is the moment of truth – converging on a decision. This is where the rubber meets the road, where you cut through the fluff and make a choice. This ain’t the time for maybes or what-ifs. It’s time to pick a lane and stick to it. But remember, it’s not just about choosing the ‘best’ option. It’s about making a decision that’s informed, thoughtful, and aligned with the goals and context at hand.

Stage 5: Putting Advice into Action

Finally, we come to the grand finale – putting advice into action. Because let’s face it, all the advice in the world is worth jack shit if it doesn’t lead to action. This is where the advice-seeker takes the wisdom you’ve shared and applies it to their situation. It’s about making things happen, about moving from words to deeds, from plans to reality.

And there you have it, the five stages of advising. It’s a journey, a process, a dance that requires skill, patience, and a little bit of finesse. But when you get it right, when you master these stages, you’ll find that you’ve got a superpower on your hands – the power to guide, to influence, to make a difference.

Stage 1: Finding the Right Fit

Let’s start with stage one, finding the right fit. Now, you might think, “Hey, I’m a smart cookie. I can give advice on anything.” Well, let me stop you right there, smarty-pants. Sure, you might know a lot, but there’s a difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit.

Here’s the kicker: You can’t be everyone’s go-to guru. You’re not an Oracle, and this ain’t Delphi. It’s okay, and dare I say, necessary, not to be the answer box for everyone. You have to know your strengths and limitations. Trying to advise on everything to everyone is like trying to be a jack-of-all-trades. And we all know how that saying ends, don’t we?

Remember, the goal here isn’t to show off how much you know. It’s to provide value, to be helpful. And you can only do that if you stick to your area of expertise, your domain. If you’re a people manager, don’t go around giving technical advice. You’ll just end up looking like a chump. Stick to what you know, what you’re good at.

Now, this also means being aware of who you’re advising. Everyone’s different, with unique needs, backgrounds, and contexts. What works for one person may not work for another. So, it’s important to understand the advice-seeker, their situation, their requirements.

Imagine you’re a fashion designer, and you’re giving advice to someone looking for a new wardrobe. You wouldn’t recommend the same clothes to a teenager going to prom and a CEO going to a board meeting, would you? Of course not! You would tailor your advice to their specific needs, their context.

So, how do you ensure a good fit? Simple, ask questions, listen, and observe. Get a feel for the person and the situation before you start doling out wisdom. Make sure you understand what they’re looking for, what their constraints are, and what their goals are.

And hey, if you realize you’re not the best person to give advice, that’s cool too. There’s no shame in that. In fact, it shows maturity, humility, and a genuine desire to help. Don’t be afraid to say, “I’m not the best person to advise you on this, but let me connect you with someone who is.”

And here’s the last nail in the coffin for the stereotype that you have to know everything as a leader: You don’t. Leaders aren’t know-it-alls. They’re facilitators, enablers. They create environments where people can learn, grow, and excel. So, stop trying to be the answer machine and start being the guiding light.

Finding the right fit is the first and perhaps the most crucial step in the advising process. Get this right, and you’ll pave the way for a productive, effective, and meaningful exchange of advice.

Stage 2: Developing a Shared Understanding

Stage two, is all about developing a shared understanding. This is where effective communication comes into play, and no, I’m not just talking about yapping your gums off.

Communication, my friends, is a two-way street. It ain’t just about talking; it’s about listening and understanding, too. And when it comes to advising, it’s all the more important. You need to be on the same page as the advice-seeker. Otherwise, you might as well be speaking different languages.

Here’s a nugget of truth for you: Assumptions are the mother of all fuck-ups. You assume you know what the other person is talking about, they assume you understand their problem, and before you know it, you’re in a right pickle. So, clear, open, and honest communication is key to developing a shared understanding.

Now, this isn’t just about understanding the problem or the situation. It’s also about understanding the person. What’s their perspective? What’s their context? What are their values, their motivations, their fears? All of these can influence how they see the problem and how they might approach the solution.

It’s also important to understand their expectations. What do they hope to achieve with your advice? What’s their best-case scenario, their worst-case scenario? Setting clear expectations can help avoid disappointment, miscommunication, and conflict down the line.

And hey, let’s not forget about cultural nuances. Different cultures have different ways of communicating, different values, different ways of seeing the world. So, if you’re advising someone from a different culture, take the time to understand these nuances. It’ll help you provide more relevant, more respectful, and more effective advice.

So, how can seekers and advisers foster mutual understanding? Easy. Ask questions, listen actively, and verify your understanding. Don’t just assume you know what they mean; ask for clarification. Don’t just listen to their words; pay attention to their body language, their tone, their emotions. And once you think you understand, verify. Paraphrase their problem, their situation, their expectations, and ask if you got it right.

Developing a shared understanding is like building a bridge between two people. It takes time, effort, and patience. But once it’s built, it makes the journey from problem to solution so much smoother and more enjoyable.

Stage 3: Crafting Alternatives

Alright, buckle up, because we’re moving on to stage three: crafting alternatives. Now, some of you might be thinking, “Wait a minute, isn’t advising about providing solutions, not alternatives?” Well, yes, and no. Stick with me here, and I’ll explain.

You see, the problem with the traditional approach to advice-giving is that it’s often linear, one-dimensional. It’s like, “Here’s your problem, here’s the solution, end of story.” But life isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. And neither are problems, or solutions.

That’s where crafting alternatives comes in. It’s about brainstorming different possibilities, exploring different paths, considering different perspectives. It’s about moving away from a prescriptive approach, and towards a collaborative, creative one.

Why is this important, you ask? Well, for starters, it opens up a world of options. It’s like opening a box of assorted chocolates, instead of just having a single flavor. More options mean more possibilities for finding a solution that fits the problem, the context, and the person.

Secondly, it encourages critical thinking and creativity. It challenges the advice-seeker to think outside the box, to consider different angles, to be more resourceful. And in the process, they learn, they grow, they become better problem-solvers.

And lastly, it empowers the advice-seeker. Instead of just handing them a solution on a silver platter, you’re giving them the tools, the confidence to find their own solutions. And that, my friends, is a gift that keeps on giving.

So, how can you craft viable alternatives in an advising relationship? Well, it starts with a mindset shift. You need to see yourself not as the problem-solver, but as the facilitator, the guide. Your role is to help the advice-seeker explore different paths, not to dictate which path they should take.

Next, you need to create a safe, open space for brainstorming. Encourage the advice-seeker to voice their thoughts, their ideas, their concerns. Ask open-ended questions, challenge assumptions, push boundaries. And remember, there are no bad ideas in brainstorming.

And finally, you need to guide the advice-seeker in evaluating the alternatives. Help them weigh the pros and cons, consider the implications, assess the feasibility. Remember, the goal isn’t to find the perfect solution, but the most fitting one.

Crafting alternatives is like creating a choose-your-own-adventure story. It’s a journey of exploration, discovery, and growth. And in the end, it leads to a solution that’s not just effective, but also empowering.

Stage 4: Converging on a Decision

Now that we’ve explored the landscape of possibilities in stage three, it’s time to narrow down our options and make a choice. Welcome to stage four: converging on a decision. This is where the rubber meets the road, where we cut through the bullshit and commit to a course of action.

Sounds daunting, right? Well, don’t worry. I’ve got your back. Let’s break it down.

First off, let’s get one thing straight: decision-making is not about finding the perfect solution. Nope. It’s about finding the most suitable solution given the circumstances. It’s about making the best possible choice with the information and resources we have at hand.

Now, you might be thinking, “Alright, but how do I know what’s the best choice?” Well, that’s where a little thing called critical thinking comes in. It’s about evaluating the alternatives objectively, considering the pros and cons, weighing the risks and benefits, and assessing the feasibility and impact.

But here’s the kicker: our brains are sneaky little bastards. They’re wired with all sorts of biases that can cloud our judgment and lead us astray. Take confirmation bias, for instance. It’s the tendency to favor information that confirms our existing beliefs or values. And it can blind us to other options, other perspectives.

So, how do we counter these biases and make sound decisions? Well, one way is by playing devil’s advocate. Challenge your assumptions, question your beliefs, consider the opposite viewpoint. It’s like having a mental sparring partner to keep you on your toes.

Another way is by seeking feedback and perspective from others. They can provide a fresh pair of eyes, a different angle, a reality check. Just remember: take their feedback with a grain of salt. In the end, the decision is yours to make.

And finally, trust your gut. I know, I know, it sounds cliché. But hear me out. Your gut instinct is your subconscious mind processing information faster than your conscious mind can keep up with. It’s not infallible, but it can provide valuable insight.

Converging on a decision is like navigating a maze. It can be tricky, it can be challenging, but with critical thinking, open-mindedness, and a dash of gut instinct, you can find your way to the best possible solution.

Stage 5: Putting Advice into Action

Here we are, folks, at the final stretch. You’ve navigated the winding path, from finding the right fit, developing a shared understanding, crafting alternatives, and converging on a decision. And now, it’s time for stage five: putting advice into action. Because, let’s face it, all the advice in the world ain’t worth jack if it’s not acted upon.

Let me tell you, this stage is where the magic happens. It’s where ideas become reality, where plans come to life, where change takes root. But it’s also where shit gets real. Because turning advice into action requires commitment, effort, and courage. It’s not for the faint of heart.

But, hey, don’t let that scare you. Putting advice into action is a journey, not a sprint. It’s about taking small, consistent steps towards your goal. It’s about perseverance, resilience, and adaptability. And guess what? You’ve got all that in spades.

So, how do you turn advice into actionable steps? Well, first off, break it down. Slice that big, daunting task into smaller, manageable chunks. It’s like eating an elephant, one bite at a time.

Next, set clear, realistic goals. Know what you want to achieve, when, and how. And make sure it’s something you can measure, so you can track your progress and adjust as needed.

Then, create a plan of action. Outline the steps you need to take, the resources you need, the obstacles you might face. And remember, a plan is not set in stone. It’s a guide, a roadmap that you can adjust as you go along.

And finally, just do it. Take the first step, no matter how small. Take action, even if it’s imperfect. Because action breeds momentum, and momentum breeds results.

Putting advice into action is like launching a rocket. It takes preparation, effort, and a whole lot of courage. But once it takes off, it’s a sight to behold. And the sky’s the limit.


Well, we’ve come a long way, haven’t we? We’ve busted the myth that advising skills are a divine gift, navigated the five stages of advising, and hopefully, added a few more tools to your leadership toolkit. And hey, if you’ve made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back. You’re one hell of a trooper.

Here’s the thing, folks. The art of advice isn’t some mystical, elusive concept. It’s a practical skill set that you can learn, practice, and master. And like any skill, it gets better with time and experience. So, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, make mistakes, and learn from them. That’s how you grow.

But remember, the key to effective advising isn’t about having all the answers. Nope. It’s about fostering a creative, collaborative approach to understanding problems and crafting solutions. It’s about being a guide, not a guru. A partner, not a preacher.

And most importantly, it’s about putting advice into action. Because talk is cheap, folks. What matters is what you do with the advice you receive. So, take that advice, roll up your sleeves, and get to work. Show the world what you’re made of.

As we wrap up this journey, I leave you with this final thought: The transformative power of effective advice is immense. It can change perspectives, inspire innovation, and propel teams and leaders towards success. So, harness that power. Use it to fuel your growth, your success, your legacy.

And remember, folks, advice is like a cocktail – best served chilled and only when asked for. So, cheers to your advising journey, and may it be thrilling, enlightening, and rewarding.

About the Author: Geoffrey Byers
Geoffrey is one of the world's foremost Designers. He is also a Serial Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, and Mad Scientist. Hypothesis-Driven experimentation is his love language.