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MBSV22 - Event overview

Is your advice monster demotivating your team?

Leadership coaching expert Michael Bungay Stanier on The Advice Trap

MBSV22 - Event overview

You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions. – Naguib Mafouz

A motivated team is critical for a company to succeed. Yet teams lose motivation when leaders fall into ‘the advice trap’ by offering advice at every turn. In our masterclass with business coaching expert Michael Bungay Stanier, author of books including The Coaching Habit and The Advice Trap, we learned how to:

·       Stay curious a little bit longer.

·       Rush to action and advice giving a little bit slower.

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Curiosity as a leadership coaching tool

Michael says that when someone is constantly on the receiving end of advice, they lose motivation to bring their best self to work.

“Teams made up of demotivated receivers and overwhelmed givers are less able to find and focus on the real challenge,” he says.

Michael says the simple act of curiosity shown by a leader empowers others. It sounds easy, but staying curious longer (taming your ‘advice monster’) is a hard change to make.

Easy Change vs. Hard Change

Easy changes are changes that are bolted onto what you already know. So easy change versus hard change is like a battle between ‘Present You’ and ‘Future You.’

Easy Change: With practice, you make progress. It tinkers with the ‘present you.’

Hard Change: You can see the destination, but you end up in the forest of despair. It is building out ‘future you’ in a BE-DO-BE-DO-BE fashion. It involves saying no to some of what has worked so far for ‘present you.’ 

One of the things you need to say ‘no’ to is your default action to jump in with advice when someone starts talking. This is your ‘ADVICE MONSTER’ and it comes in three different guises.

3 Personas of the Advice Monster

·       Tell It Monster: Convinces you that you add value by having all the answers to all the things all the time. If not, you’re letting everyone down.

·       Save It Monster: Tells you your job is to keep everybody safe. You’re not to let anybody struggle or find it hard.

·       Control It Monster: Subtly whispers to you to not let go of the steering wheel. Not to assume the best in others or have a low trust of others. Not to cede control. 

Thinking about how this plays out in most organisations, advice monsters treat others in a way that is more like a parent-child relationship than an adult-adult relationship. At its worst, the advice monster is making you believe that you’re better than the other person.

Taming your Advice Monster

Coaching behaviours that are useful in taming your advice monster are: Stop jumping in and solving problems for other people (be lazy), ask more questions (be curious), and use every interaction to stay curious a bit longer (be often).

Easy change:

·       Ask more questions, offer less advice. Asking “And What Else?” holds the space for curiosity. It doesn’t move the topic on, rather it holds the space.

·       Less talk, more silence. Silence is underrated as a leadership skill. Try being silent for 3-4 seconds after asking a question. 

·       Less answer focus and more challenge focus. Get them thinking strategically by asking “What is the real challenge here for you?”.

Hard change:

·       Walk away from the status quo. What do you need to give up in terms of status, authority, recognition right now if you step into this place of staying curious a little bit longer? You may need to say no to being the smartest person in the room, or being the one in control, or protecting everyone, or treating everyone as a child, no to controlling everything, to always being in the spotlight.

Where to start:

·       Start small. Decide what you are going to say ‘no’ to (see above).

·       In conversations, practice slowing down.

·       Ask “And what else?” Ask “Great, and what else?” again. And again.

·       Ask “So what’s the real challenge for you here?”

·       Tell your team you are trying to be a better leader. Tell them you are trying to tame your advice monster. Ask them to pull you up if you keep jumping in with advice (offer a $100 reward if they can catch you doing it).

·       In meetings, ask team members “So, what’s on your mind?” Ask them to share ideas “What are your ideas around that?” so they can start to become autonomous and self-sufficient.

·       Ask people to share “What was most valuable for you?”

·       Slow down so you have focus and go faster on the stuff that matters.


Michael Bungay Stanier says there’s nothing wrong with giving advice. It’s about a transmission of wisdom. Where advice is dangerous is when it’s your default response when someone starts talking. He says that’s when you start to fake active listening skills, nodding and say ‘ah ha’ but in your mind you are waiting for people to stop talking so you can jump in with advice. Taming your advice monster is a hard change. So, try to be lazy, be curious, be often. Use every moment to stay curious longer.

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