(Note) Obstacles in Seeking Advice

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Introduction

Advice are central to effective leadership and decision making. Probably the reason why even Prophet Muhammad SAW often, or always, make syura (or meeting) before deciding on a matter. Yet, we seldom view them as practical skills which can be learned and improve.

Receiving guidance is often seen as passive consumption of wisdom while giving advice is treated as a matter of “good judgment”. Meaning, you either have it, or you don’t, again rather than consider it as a competency to be mastered.

Plus, giving sound advice, as in any other form of giving, put us is a better position mentally with the one whom we’ve given advice to. Since providing expert advice often creates an implicit debt that recipients will way to repay. Remember, there’s so such thing as free lunch.

There’s no such things as free lunch.

Now, one of the main hurdle we need to consider when receiving or giving advice is our own personal biases. Worse, if we act as if we don’t have personal biases. We all have it, everyone does. But we can recognized it and do our best to manage it. In short, we have a great inclination to prefer our own opinions, irrespective of their merit, and the fact that carefully listening is hard and time consuming work. So, indeed this is one of the personal mastery everyone should aim to achieve.

Obstacles to Receiving Advice

When you’re seeking advice, watch out for these obstacles.

Thinking that we already have the answer

In deciding whether we need help, they often have difficulty in assessing our own competency and place too much faith in our intuition. Therefore, we usually became overconfident in our ability and tend to make solo decision making as a default setting on the basis of our limited prior knowledge and assumption.

Most of the time, we ask for advice as a means to boost our own ego by validation and praise. We do this when they strongly believe we’ve solved the problem but still want to “check the box” with bosses and peers.

So, remember to ask for advice with a clear attention.

Wrong Advisers

Sometimes, we have our preferred answer, therefore, we often chosen like-minded advisers. Several Harvard studies even suggest that advice seekers are more receptive to guidance from friends or other likeable people.

Though friendship, accessibility, and non-threatening personalities all impart high levels of comfort and trust, they have no relation to the quality or thoughtfulness of the advice.

We could also at times fail to think creatively about the expertise that we need. Hence, would limit valuable insight, especially on those who has faced similar problems before, or those whose experience would best fit to help to solve the current issues at hand.

Poorly Defined Problem

Before we can solve a problem, we first need to properly define the problem. We often have trouble reaching a mutual understanding with their advisers which sometimes because of imprecise or ineffective communication, and at times could also comes from cognitive or emotional blinders.

So, defined the problem properly, makes sure every information are conveyed in correct context and data are available for analysis.

Misjudging the Advice Quality

Research shows that we value an advice more if it comes from a confident source, even though confident doesn’t signal validity.

In contrast, seekers tend to dismiss an advice when it comes veers from the “norms” or comes from people with whom we frequently discord.

So, that among few obstacles we should keep a watchful eyes on.


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(Story) Al-Hassan Advice

The Advice of al-Hasan

al-Hasan once wrote the following short letter to Umar bin Abdul Azeez:

“Fear what Allah told you to fear. Take what is in your hands, and use it for what is to come. At the moment of death, sure news will come to you and peace.”

Umar wrote back, asking al-Hasan to advise him some more. Al-Hasan wrote back:

“Indeed the terror of the Day of Resurrection is greater than you might think. Indeed, frightful matters are near at hand. You will have to face all of that, either by facing it all and being saved, or by facing it all and being destroyed. Know that he who takes account of his own deeds will succeed, and that he who is negligent in this regard will fail. Whoever looks at the outcomes of his actions will be saved, while he who obeys his desires will be misguided. Whoever is patient and forbearing will gain profits. Whoever remains awake and vigilant regarding his deeds will be safe, whoever is safe reflects, whoever reflects sees, whoever sees understands, and whoever understands knows. Then if you slip, return and repent. And when you are remorseful, then refrain [from sins]. When you are ignorant, ask. And when you are angry, restrain your anger.”


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(Story) Khidr Advice

The Advice of al-Khidr

Shaikh al-Ghazaali reported that Musa asked al-Khidr to advise him. He said, “Be someone who constantly smiles, and not someone who is constantly angry. Be someone who benefits others, and not someone who harms others. Refrain from argumentation. Do not walk around without purpose. Do not laugh without a reason. Do not disparage wrongdoers by mentioning their mistakes to them. And cry over your misdeeds, O son of ‘Imraan.”


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(Story) A good advice

By performing all prescribed acts of worship, by not wronging others, and by repenting to Allah.

GOOD ADVICE

During one of his journeys, Sari as-Saqati passed by a cave, from which he heard continuous sobbing. Aroused by curiosity, he entered the cave and saw a young man whose body seemed to be wasted away by grief and sadness. Having immediately perceived that the man was a righteous worshipper, Sari humbly asked, “O young man, how is safety achieved?”

He said, “By performing all prescribed acts of worship, by not wronging others, and by repenting to Allah.”

Sari asked, “Can you please deliver a sermon to me?”

The young man said, “The best sermon you can receive is by looking into your own self. But I will say this: be obedient to Allah when you are alone, for doing so will atone for your sins, and Allah will then display you to the inhabitants of the heavens.”


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Michelle Schroeder advice

Michelle Schroeder

Michelle is an entrepreneur and blogger that runs the personal finance and lifestyle blog, Making Sense of Cents. Since 2011, she’s been using her background in finance to write great content and grow her blog business to over $70,000 in revenue per month. Here’s her business advice for new entrepreneurs who want to start a business and become gainfully self-employed:

“The most painful mistake I see first-time (or inexperienced) entrepreneurs make is that they see others in their industry or niche as competition. This can significantly hold you back, as you may never learn industry secrets and tips, make genuine friends, and more.”

“Don’t view others in your niche as competition. Network and build relationships.”

“Instead, I think you should see others in your industry or niche as colleagues and friends. You should network with others, attend conferences, reach out to people, and more.”

The Motivation Spectrum

If people are already motivated, the question now is, how motivated are they? The answer lies in the 6 “motivational outlooks” on the spectrum of motivation.

These outlook do not form a continuum. At one moment, we might operate in one particular motivational outlook and later, we may operate with an entirely diferent one.

To illustrate how motivaional outlook work, consier them in light of a routine meeting where 6 different employees are each operating individually based on a different mode of motivation:

  1. Disinterest – This one hated the meeting and considered it as as waste of time.
  2. External – This one leverage the meeting to show off his power and status within the organization.
  3. Imposed – This one is forced by his or her superiors to attend the meeting. Their superiors might be angry if they missed the meeting.
  4. Aligned – This one loved attending meeting, and felt they might gain valueable knowledge from that meeting.
  5. Integrated – this one enjoyed the meeting because her life has a noble purpose, and the meeting focused on that purpose.
  6. Inherent – This one is gregarious, loves being around people and attends all meetings.

“Setting measurable goals and outcomes is important. Having a defined finish line in front of you can be positively compelling.”

The first 3 motivational outlook are in the suboptimal motivation category and they represent the low-quality motivation or motivational junk food.

People operating based on suboptimal motivational modes often say things like,

“I have to”

“I must”

“I should”

“I’m requied to”

“It’s necessary”

“Because it’s my duty.”

“Everyday, your employees’ appraisal of their workplace leaves them with or without a positive sense of well-being. Their well-being determines their intentions, and intentions are the greatest predictors of behavior.”

The remaining 3 motivational outlook are the optimal ones. They show the kind of motivation which we want, for ourselves, our employees and the people we care about.

They are motivational “health food”.

Outlook based on alignment, integration and inherent motivation generate high-quality energy, vitality and positive well-being which leads to a sustainable results. People with optimal motivation outlook often say,

“I get to”

“I have decided to”

“I am lucky to”

“I elect to”

“External Motivators”

Organization at times would turn to external motivators to influence their employees. These motivators include money, incentives or a bigger office or even bigger title which are tangable, or approval, status, shame or fear, which are intangible. These forces work directly against the important psychological requirements employees have for autonomy, relatedness and competence.

External motivators actually undermine motivation.

“The quality of our beliefs determines the quality of our leadership values. Our leadership values ultimately determine how we lead and the quality of the workplace we create.”

External motivators can take control over our employees, driving and compelling them to act in a certain way, thus robbing them of autonomy. And eventually, the employees will come to resent the loss of control.

A self-defeating inherent message accompanies any external motivator:

“If you do as I say, then you will be rewarded”

This ham-handed message can gain only temporary, “conditional support” from the employees.

“Not all beliefs are values, but all values are beliefs”

Optimal Motivation

For most organizations, motivation is what their employees can do for them. But this reverses crucial priorities.

The magic of motivation kick into overdrive when managers address what the can do for their employees.

Answering that question fulfills one o the basic rules of motivation:

“When we focus on what we want for people, we are more likely to get the results we want from people.”

So, instead of trying to drive or control employees with carrots and sticks, or pigeon pellets, help promote thriving employees by meeting their crucial autonomy, relatedness an competence psychological needs, which are their “basic desire to thrive.”

Organizations need to move beyond a strict focus on corporate priorities which usually centered around “results, performance and productivity.”

“Great leadership takes great practice. When it comes to motivation, leadership practice includes being a role model.”

And when companies focuses on autonomy, relatedness and competence, they and their people will stand to benefit. Organizations that focus on ARC develop sel-governing workforce who believe in accountability. Such companies promote strong personal relationships, which motivate examplary “citizenship behaviors” among employees. This emphasis on competence and professional development helps create and sustain learning organizations.

Therefore, organization should help their employees to understand why they are motivated. Adopting a motivational strateg based on ARC values which ensures that our employees have an optimal motivational outlook. And when leaders model this attitude, it can become a defining characteristic of our organization, a win-win-win for employees, manager and the company.

And hence, a much holistic working culture.

The ‘Motivation Dilemma”

Managers face a motivation dilemma. Their organizations insiste that they to motivate their subordinate to work hard to meet the corporate goals. Unfortunately, since no one can motivate another person which is an impossible task to do.

That’s the dilemma.

Executives and managers who want to understand motivation should and must understand the “appraisal process”.

Employees appraise things according to what important to them and their priorities might differ from that of their managers and corporate leaders.

So, the factors which motivate employees may not align with what we want them to be motivated toward accomplishing. The goals that drive their motivation may not be akin to the objectives which we want to encourage.

“It is a mistake to think that people are not motivated. They are simply longing for the needs they cannot name.”

For example,

In 2002, the Boston Red Sox wanted to lure Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane to come work for them. And they offered him then what would have been the largest GM salary in baseball. They were shocked when he turned it down. But Beane appraised the offer against what mattered to him – “his family and the love of baseball.”

“The real story of motivating is that people are learners who long to grow, enjoy their work, be productive, make positive contributions and build lasting relationships.”

And in case of Beane, he never cared about money, so the Red Sox’s huge salary offer meant little to him. They couldn’t motivate him because he was already motivated, but in different way than the Red Sox wanted.

This is always the proble when we try to motivate people. They already are motivated but sometimes in ways we may not like.

However, we want our employees’ individual motivations to align with our organization’s goal. But now we understand that trying to leverage “motivational forces” to compel people to do as we want won’t work.

So, how can we align their goals and the company’s goals?

“It is time to stop beating our people with carrots-and-sticks and embrace different, more effective leadership strategies.”

First, understand that our employees are learners, they want to do well, they want to make solid contributions and they want their organization’s executives to think well of them. They also want to have “autonomy, relatedness and competence ” or ARC, which is the essential psychological needs.

“Rewards may help people initiate new and healthy behaviors, but they fail miserably in helping people maintain their progress or sustain results.”

Instead of offering contests or prizes, encourage your employees by enabling them to gain autonomy. That’s the secret to motivation.

Offer independence and relate to them as human beings. Help them to grow professionally and personally. Don’t worry about what they can do for you, but rather worry about what you can do for them.

In that environment, your employees will become more motivated to perform better.

When you offer autonomy, related to them and encourage their competence, and they will respond.

That’s simple human nature.