“You are one of my projects. I want to help you and teach you some of the things I’ve learned the hard way.” Mitchel took a drink of his beer, looked at me, nodded and thanked me.
I had just transferred to a new geography. Mitchel and I were peers. The only difference was I had been in leadership in our company for 5 years and Mitchel had recently been promoted. I knew he and I would work well together and become fast friends.
I was right…and wrong.
We did work well together and become great friends. But, it took an extra 18 months for that to happen thanks to my arrogance.
I have a coach’s heart. I love to see others succeed and be a small part of that success. That is all I really wanted to do with Mitchel. I wanted to coach and mentor him.
I wanted to share my screw-ups with Mitchel and hopefully lessen his learning curve. Anyone who has read my other Un-Resume posts knows I screwed a lot of things up through the years. I had a lot to share!
Unfortunately, my good intentions didn’t matter. My delivery was bad. I came across as an arrogant know-it-all.
Lack of Asking, Knowing, And Relationship
Mitchel never indicated he needed help. He never asked me for my advice. I decided that since he was a new manager, he needed help. I remember needing help at that stage. So I was sure he needed it as well.
I was offering advice to someone who never asked for it. I am sure he felt like I was talking down to him at best. At worst, he was really ticked off that someone who barely knew him assumed he was in need of my help.
Looking back, Mitchel was a far better leader at that point than I was at the same stage. I thought I was being a good friend and mentor. I crossed a line that day. But I learned an important lesson.
The End Of The Story
As we worked together, I quickly realized he had a lot more experience stepping into his new role than I had when I became a new manager.
He didn’t need me to be his mentor. He needed me to be a trusted peer. By working together on different projects we both got to see each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
We would disagree and argue with each other. We would agree and argue with others. It was during a tough time of conflict that we finally buried our old issues.
We had just been through a tough personnel issue together and we were licking our wounds, over a beer. I told him that night what a good leader I thought he was and apologized for the way I spoke to him the first time we had a beer together.
Mitchel laughed and asked: “Can I give you some advice?”
“Sure!” I said.
“Don’t try so hard Dave. Sometimes you have to wait for people to know and trust you before you try to help them. Now that I know you, I know that’s just who you are.
You enter a situation and want to help. You ticked me off, because 18 months ago, I didn’t know that about you.
We have been through a lot in the last 18 months. I consider you a friend and a good leader. I value your advice and experience. Just ask me if I want it.
If I say ‘No’ but you are sure I need it anyway, then fire away. I may not like it at the time, but I trust and respect you. I will at least listen to what you have to say.”
The Bottom Line:
I am thankful that Mitchel was able to see through my arrogant approach and believe in my good intentions. I have distilled what he said to me that night into three bullet points:
Advice On Advice
- Be Sure They Want My Advice
- Be Sure I Know What They Need
- Be Sure I Have Built A Relationship
Mitchel and I have not worked together for a number of years, but we are still friends. We have walked each other through some very tough professional and personal minefields. We also enjoyed a lot of success and a lot of laughs together.
I still tend to be too quick to jump in and give advice. Thanks to Mitchel, I now have these three steps to prevent me from ticking off someone who I am intending to help.
What is another key to giving good advice?