Twice in the past few days, I’ve had conversations that devolved into unsolicited advice. The first was with a friend. We were talking about my transition from running the Center to being fully focused on my coaching practice. She immediately launched into a laundry list of things I should be doing/thinking about. I politely thanked her and let her know that I was in a good place at the moment and was looking forward to a bit of breathing room. This, unfortunately, did not end the discussion. After my third attempt to assure her that I was fine, I simply changed the subject.
The second conversation was with my husband. I had mentioned that I was going to turn my attention for the next few weeks to focus on analyzing the data from the 30+ interviews I’ve conducted as I will lose access to the qualitative software program when I leave the Center at the end of June. He immediately jumped into problem-solving mode — which is a trait I deeply appreciate in him — but, for me, there was not a problem to be solved. This deadline was just the forcing mechanism I needed to buckle down and get this done. He spent a few minutes exploring options and then looked at me and said, “You want me to stop, don’t you?”
As a leader, we can sometimes fall into the trap that we are valued for our expertise and for being able to “fix it.” We may too quickly jump into problem-solving mode when, in fact, that is not what the individual we are speaking with is looking for. I find it helpful to ask the individual what would be most helpful to them — for me to listen, for me to help them ideate, for some guidance, or, more directly help them determine how best to proceed. This allows them to retain ownership of both the topic at hand and the dialogue.