For her, good ‘advice’ is a myth. It’s based on the idea that you can offer guidance without a foundational awareness of someone’s strengths, weaknesses, aspirations, and position in life.
‘It would be really nice if information that could transform someone’s values was able to be handed over as cheaply as driving instructions. In such a world, people could be of profound assistance to one another with little investment in one another’s lives. The myth of advice is the possibility that we can transform one another with the most glancing contact… real assistance requires contact.’
For Callard, we should be aiming for either ‘coaching’, which is informed by this awareness, or simply ‘instructions’, where we offer task-specific guidance.
For some, that might sound a bit like playing with semantics, but we think her basic point is right and very relevant to your experience as a manager.
When a team member asks you for help, do you know enough about them and their circumstances to genuinely coach them to improve, or do you only know enough to give them some quick ‘advice’?
If the answer is the latter, then next time you’re asked for advice, before you jump into solving the problem, pause to consider whether you know enough about the person to offer meaningful help.
If not, you may wish to ask a few questions of your own first before responding to theirs.