5 ways leaders diminish the value of their own advice

All leaders need to know how to deliver instructions and give advice. However, it is important to note the difference between the two.

Making instructions sound like advice can actually produce adverse effects among employees, according to a Forbes article by bestselling author Mark Murphy. Using words like "should," "would" and "try" do the opposite of what instruction is supposed to, and often put the recipient on the defensive. Instead, leaders should carefully consider what situations call for advice, and which call for a more directive approach.

Here are five ways in which advice can be unproductive, according to Mr. Murphy.

1. It's usually unsolicited. People typically don't listen to unasked-for advice because they didn't ask to be judged or corrected. After all, "while advice may be fun to give, it's generally not that much fun to get," according to Mr. Murphy. Instead, utilizing constructive feedback can make employees more receptive to your ideas.

2. It makes you seem judgmental. Mr. Murphy claims giving unsolicited advice sends the following response: "You're obviously not as savvy as me because if you were, you'd have already figured out what I'm telling you." Additionally, your advice may cause employees to more thoroughly consider your faults and wonder what gives you the right to offer advice.

3. It's not directive. Sometimes being direct is useful — as a manager, it's acceptable to tell your employees what to do. But phrasing directions as advice makes it seem like you're giving a recommendation. "If what you need to tell a subordinate is not optional, then be honest with them," wrote Mr. Murphy. "Don't play coy and pretend they have a choice when they actually don't."

4. It prompts "gotcha" moments. Mr. Murphy highlights two dangerous "gotcha" moments: The first is when an employee takes your advice and must admit he or she is wrong, which often causes the employee to be defensive. The second "gotcha" moment is when an employee ignores your advice. If the situation works without your advice, you risk an "I told you so" response from the employee.

5. It makes you appear narcissistic. Advice is not always given under the proper circumstances. Occasionally, everyone gives advice to demonstrate their own knowledge or out of a need to feel wanted. Mr. Murphy offers a solution: "Before you offer constructive feedback, consider your reasons. If your purpose is not to help someone achieve great performance, you probably want to rethink giving the feedback."

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