Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Advice vs. Opinions

Everybody has pieces of their job that you like and look forward to. It helps to somewhat offset those pieces that drive you crazy and leaving you feeling like you could easily become a two or three martini poster child in very short order.

One of the pieces of my job that helps me to repress the martini merited events is when I have the chance to get out of the office and meet and talk with executives at one event or another. It's just plain fun for me, and more importantly, a great learning opportunity.

Last night it was an especially rewarding evening because I had been asked (by my colleague Bob Weber our VP of Enterprise Marketing) to not only be on a panel to talk to a joint meeting of the Wharton and Columbia Bschool clubs in our area, but because the other panelist was going to Judy Rosemarin, President and Founder of a NYC based company called Sense-Able Strategies.

I have been fortunate enough to have known and worked with Judy for 10+ years (I never can remember exactly how long) as she has served as the host and facilitator of our networking meetings in Manhattan. We have also been lucky enough to have her as the presenter of one of our most popular FastTrack programs which she calls: Winning Interviews: Converse, Connect, Convince. She has a passion for what she does, and among other aspects of her coaching practice, she loves getting her clients ready to be killer interview candidates. All of which is to say that having been an executive coach for more than 20 years, it isn't surprising that every time I listen to her, I learn something, and last night was no exception.

We were talking to the audience about the types of things that help people to become more effective at networking, and in particular what were some of the things that made people more comfortable and willing to help.

It was at this point that Judy suggested that one critical thing to do was to not ask people for "advise" but rather to seek their "opinion." It was one of those moments when you slap yourself on the forehead and say "why the hell couldn't I have thought of it that way?" It is such an important distinction, and as she went on to explain asking for advice creates pressure because there is an implicit risk of "what if my advice is wrong," whereas if you ask me for my opinion, the risk feels much, much less. Hell, as Judy said, "we all have opinions, and actually like to express them."

Every time I go to any event, or listen to any speaker, it is always my hope to walk away with a "take home." Something I can use in my job that will hopefully help to make me better at what I do. Judy does coaching for a living, I don't, but I do get "networked with" a fair amount, and while I have never objected to it, I vividly recall the discomfort I have felt as people would ask me for advice.

From here on out, I don't plan to offer as much advice as I will offer an opinion.
Thanks Judy.


Vivek Satsangi said...

"advise" is a verb. "advice" is a noun, and the word that you intend in some places in this blog entry. An easy mnemonic: 'n' comes before 'v'. 'c' comes before 's'. There are other noun/verb pairs where this works, too .. surprise / surprize (here the 's' version is the noun).


Dave Opton said...


Thanks for taking the time to remind me of something I already knew but failed to check. I appreciate it.