Getting and giving advice

business-adviceNone of us is an island.  Nor do any of us have all the answers.  It would be fair to say that we live in a world of collaboration which is an awesome thing.  Sharing ideas, challenging each other, taking the thread of an idea and watching it shift, change, and morph into some exciting it just plain fun.  It’s a sugar rush for the brain!

Dealing with challenges

Facing a career decision or some other major decision is a challenge for all of us.  Being able to seek out the counsel of others and hear their ideas and suggestions is invaluable.  We have likely all benefited from this kind of situation.

The problem

Here’s the problem as I see it.  Each of us is likely stuck in a generational bubble.  University students only seek the advice of other university students.  Young up and coming business people tend to only seek advice from their peers.  Managers striving for senior leadership roles often only seek the counsel of peers.

Cross pollination

This is too narrow an advice process.  I think it is critical that we cross pollenate generational thinking up and down the chain.  As a young man entering the business world my dad advised me to find three people who were in difference career roles, successful, who I respected, and to seek their counsel on any significant decisions.  One of the best pieces of business advice I have ever received!  I have used the model of three advisors for my entire life.

It’s about mix

Early on I sought the advice of people who were senior to me in role and age.  Over time I mixed it up by adding the advice of much younger people to keep me balanced in my perspective.  This has enabled me to make much better decisions.  I also sought the advice of peers but I purposed to keep it mixed up by adding generational advice.


You should work at developing professional relationships up and down the generational chain so that you get good balanced advice. As a younger person I learned to listen with patience to the advice of older people.  There is absolute relevance in their stories – you just have to listen for it.  Now, as an older person, I have learned to listen with patience to the advice of younger people.  There is absolute relevance in their stories – I just have to listen for it!

Core principles

I find that the best approach for getting value out of generational advice is to try and distill the conversation down to a principle or two.  What is the core principle of the advice being given to me?  I ask a lot of questions to ensure that I understand their perspective.

Today I have a rich group of people ranging from early 30’s to 80’s who are part of my advice pool.  They help me make better decisions.

How about you?  Who is in your advice pool?  Do you have a healthy generational mix?  If not, what can you do to improve it?

David Reimer

Role specific skills versus life skills

glance_business_skills-1140x420Most high performance up and coming leaders do not appear to truly understanding the difference between role specific skills and life skills.  This is an important conversation as it relates to your long term career goals.  So, let’s break this down.

Two skills buckets

You should evaluate and categorize your skills into two buckets.  Technical or role specific skills and life skills. Most people seem to be driven to develop role specific skills with the hope that they will lead to advancement.  Role specific skills do not make great leaders.  They make good managers. Department managers need to have good technical or work specific, or process specific skills.  Good managers are wonderful.  However, if you want to be a true business leader you need to think in terms of life skills.

Life skills

Life skills are skills that are transferable to any type of role – they are not role specific, they are ubiquitous.  They are the skills that you must acquire in order to be a formidable leader.  This includes things like peer management, upward / downward management, financial understanding, understanding and valuing process, return on investment calculations, cost / value analysis, personal brand, root cause analysis, and the list goes on and on.  Life skills are a set of business concepts that individually equip you to manage specific situations or challenges.  A full set of life skills will give you a depth of business acumen that will clearly separate you from the pack.

What to look for

Each of us is presented with numerous life skill learning opportunities every day.  It’s a matter of understanding what to look for and how to take advantage of the learning opportunities.  Once you start to think in terms of life skill learning you will be surprised at how you will look at your daily business activity in a different way.  This new perspective is the beginning of seeing with the eyes of a true leader.

An experience

I was working for a company that was failing and everyone was jumping ship.  As I considered my career choices it struck me that I could learn a lot by riding the business to the bottom.  Against the advice of my peers, and conventional wisdom, I decided to stay and see what happens.  It was a great decision. I learned a whole set of lesson from that experience.  I learned how not to run a business, how to manage stress and tension, how to manage terminations, how to manage vendors in crisis, how to communicate bad news, and so on.  My learning curve was unique and valuable as compared to everyone who bailed early.  I learned a set of life skills that shaped and influenced my thinking for the better.

It’s about choices

This experience has driven me to make career choices that enhance life skills learning.  The end result has been a depth of business acumen and relevance that is distinctive.  This is part of what makes good leaders.

What do you think?  What life skills are you learning?  If you are not learning them, what could you do differently to get into the game?

David Reimer