Do you really want advice?

It finally happened.

The phone rang earlier today and the caller advised that he had “taken my advice.”

Now, to my almost certain knowledge, this is a first.

Of course, over the years many others have asked for my advice. And quite a few told me that I had given them “something to think about.”

Others went so far as to hint that they would “seriously consider that input.”

But to the best of my recollection no one has ever actually done what I suggested.

This experience is not confined to business. The rule has held steadfast with friends and family. Actually I have come to believe that the law of opposites applies to family.

In other words, ask him what he thinks – and then do the opposite.

Frankly I have come to rely on the belief that nobody actually wants my advice

So when folks start a sentence with the phrase “I’ve got a problem I’d like your thoughts on” I find I have difficulty concentrating on what they’re saying.

Mind you, as soon as they have finished talking my mouth falls open and I find the most ridiculous banalities falling out disguised as wisdom.

Unfortunately I’ve discovered that the only benefit I’ve derived from growing older is cheaper theater seats. It has done nothing to improve my perception or analytical prowess.

Granted, in certain areas like sales and marketing I can share with others a variety of experiences which may have some relevance to their current dilemma

But even in this, just when I think I’ve dredged up some nugget which may make the questioning manager or rep more productive I see their eyes glaze over and their focus on my comments diminishes as if they have suddenly realized that I’m older than their Dad.

I’ve written before on the subject of mentoring – and how important I believe it to be.

I feel that those of us who have been around for a while have a responsibility to provide direction and support to new managers and staff.

But I guess we have to recognize that most of the time, people are just using us to test out their own thoughts. Perhaps pseudo-mentors like me can be more effective if we simply listen at least twice as long as we preach.

My own father told me many years ago that people don’t want my advice unless they ask for it – and even then they rarely follow it – unless I confirm their established opinion.

Operating a small consultancy has given me a unique opportunity to share my experience with others. The changing marketplace has created a large number of small independent business specialists who operate home based services without any permanent staff.

In addition many more sales types are operating from remote locations such as their homes in virtual isolation from fellow workers.

The loss of the collegial atmosphere and face to face contact with contemporaries and supervisors has eliminated much of the opportunity for shared experiences and problem solving.

The efficiencies of portability and information gathering gained through technology, particularly in sales are wonderful. However, the disappearance of personal contact can hinder personal growth.

Exchanging e-mails or video conferencing will never quite replace sitting around the local watering hole bitching about the boss, the rate card or clients who have morphed into groin injuries.

We all have to develop a network through which we can seek advice and counsel – even if we recognize that ultimately we are responsible for the decision.

For it is usually through discussion that we find our own solutions.

So, I continue to enjoy hearing from sales types about their unique challenges.

It’s good for my ego and besides – even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while.

So you never know just who is going to drop a word or two that can help you – if not now – later.