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412: Missing Advice

A Thousand Things to Talk About
412: Missing Advice
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(Reader Submitted): What’s the best advice you never got?

Show notes and links:
TED talks: Susan Colantuono


Full episode script

Giving advice, taking advice, even thinking about advice is something that someone could spend a lifetime on. There’s also been a veritable ocean of ink spilled over advice that is unsolicited or unwanted.

But – what’s so much more interesting to me is the advice that we don’t get. That even the people that we actively solicit for advice never give us, either because they don’t realize that it’s important information, or it is information that we may need. It’s that stuff we find ourselves thinking “why did nobody tell me that?” while at the same time becoming incredibly invaluable once we have it. It may also be the advice that until we see it in action, may simply not make sense to us.

I think the best example I’ve seen of this was in the 2013 TEDx talk by Susan Colantuono. Quoting directly:

Five years ago, I was asked to moderate a panel of executives, and the topic for the evening was “What do you look for in high-potential employees?” So think about the three elements of leadership as I summarize for you what they told me.

They said, “We look for people who are smart and hard working and committed and trustworthy and resilient.” So which element of leadership does that relate to? Personal greatness.

They said, “We look for employees who are great with our customers, who empower their teams, who negotiate effectively, who are able to manage conflict well, and are overall great communicators.” Which element of leadership does that equate to? Engaging the greatness in others.

And then they pretty much stopped. So I asked, “Well, what about people who understand your business, where it’s going, and their role in taking it there? And what about people who are able to scan the external environment, identify risks and opportunities, make strategy or make strategic recommendations? And what about people who are able to look at the financials of your business, understand the story that the financials tell, and either take appropriate action or make appropriate recommendations?”

And to a man, they said, “That’s a given.”

So I turned to the audience of 150 women and I asked, “How many of you have ever been told that the door-opener for career advancement is your business, strategic and financial acumen, and that all the other important stuff is what differentiates you in the talent pool?” Three women raised their hand, and I’ve asked this question of women all around the globe in the five years since, and the percentage is never much different.

It’s incredibly important advice — yet because it was such a given, it was never articulated. So what advice in your life, career, or world, did you never get that perhaps you should give?

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.