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Advice that’s good to great

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in Career Management,Workplace Communication

by Morey Stettner

If your professional career lasts long enough, you’ll hear advice from wiser (or at least older) bosses that begins to contradict itself. Then you’ll really be confused.

One of my first managers told me, “Speak up and make yourself heard.” I guess he sensed my timidity.

Years later, I worked for a CEO who liked to say, “Don’t tell secrets, don’t tell lies and don’t be stupid.” That sounds great. But what happens if you speak up and make yourself heard—only to say something stupid?

Other pieces of advice that have stayed with me include, “Ask for an opinion before you volunteer your own” and “Work above your comfort zone.” These pithy statements remind us to listen (not pontificate) and push ourselves to improve (not become complacent).

When you first hear advice, it may not sound profound. But don’t dismiss it outright. In time, you may realize that what seemed silly or obvious when you initially heard it now strikes you as spot-on.

Beware of victorious people who dish out advice. After every presidential campaign, for instance, senior advisers to the winner brag about how they defied conventional wisdom. But when their next candidate loses, their previously brilliant strategy is long forgotten.

Some age-old advice remains invaluable in today’s economy. If you “underpromise and overdeliver,” you will come out ahead. On the original Star Trek television series in the late 1960s, Scotty liked to tell Captain Kirk that a fix-it project would take a certain length of time even though he privately knew he’d complete it much faster. Scotty thus made himself look like a hero.

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