There is a difference between seeking clarity and seeking advice. Both are invaluable exercises in critical thinking and the decision-making process. Some of the distinctions are obvious. We seek advice from parents, friends, coaches, attorneys, and consultants for example. They tell us what to do. We also seek clarity from the same folks as a precusor to the advice.
In the personal develpment space, and especially in the context of important relationships we have personally and professionally, the lines get blurred quite a good bit. It often is the case that in this context, many skip the clarity step and seek just the advice – instructions on how to handle a challenging situation. “Just tell me what to do” is code for advice-seeking folks. A good coach will hesitate and should refuse to give advice, that is, tell you what to do. She instead will help you clarify (understand) the quandry you are in from a myriad of perspectives. A good leader should do the same. Once in a bind, she should seek out a process to gain clarity. That may be as simple as going for a walk by herself, getting some quiet time to think, doing some research, or may involve connecting with a confidant who she knows will give her a brutally honest perspective which is usually in the form of questions to clarify fact from fiction, and provide perspectives beyond just your’s. The adage “those who seek advice are merely looking for an accomplice” is largely true because that is in fact what is done when we skip the clarity step of decision-making. In this case, folks typically react quickly or connect with people who will merely agree with their point of view. Good leaders will hesitate this relatively easy step, recognize it as a disguise to critical thinking, and seek out those who perhaps will challenge their views.
I contend that the “right answer” is many times not that hard to figure out in almost all situations if first, the right process of seeking clarity is carried out. After this, we do not need advice. Our conscience speaks to us clearly and we know what to do. Practicing seeking clarity versus seeking advice is a core leadership attribute and requires a healthy level of EQ to submit ourselves to a line of questions to find that clarity. This week, when confronted with a dilemna, I encourage you, even if you instinctively know what to do, to seek out a clarity process and practice the urge to avoid seeking advice. Trust the process and trust yourself to make the right decision after the process. Not only will you make better decisions, you are sure to learn a great deal about how myopic we all can be.