We all have blindspots. We all have areas in which we need to improve and a need for other points of view in order to see clearly. This is because we don’t know what we don’t know, and this is why we all must seek wise counsel.
This does not mean that we simply seek advice. There is plenty of freely-given advice which, frankly, simply isn’t very good. Plenty of people would love the opportunity to tell us what to do. Their advice is given to make you like them or to make themselves feel good (Let’s just call it “Narcissistic Counsel”. Please enjoy Caravaggio’s masterpiece Narcissus on the right.) In fact, they might give you advice designed to keep you from actually doing something you should do. After all, your success might put pressure on them. Narcissistic Counselors are the hyenas of organizations. Remember the hyena in The Lion King whose eyes went in different directions? Now you get the picture. The advice they give will keep you where you are, have you work on the wrong things, and might even send you in the wrong direction. You’d be better off paying them not to give you advice or simply nailing your head to a board.
These are the toxic results of the “lunch bunch” and “coffee clutch” advisors who can undermine both you and your organization. They focus on the easy way, and what Albert E. N. Gray called “pleasing methods vs. pleasing results”. The water cooler is not the best place to find wise counsel. Trust me, it’s the wise counsel that you want!
What is Wise Counsel?
1. Wise Counsel comes from someone who has wisdom. This means they are informed, smart, know something, have insight, and have done something.
2. Wise Counsel often comes from someone with experience (although some people are wise beyond their years and are not necessarily older than you.) Don’t undervalue experience!
3. Wise Counsel often comes from a third party who is not directly involved in the situation, therefore has no conflict of interest.
4. Wise Counsel is delivered with the appropriate mix of truth and love. As my pastor Rob Bugh says, “If it’s short on truth we won’t see; if it’s short on love, we won’t hear. Either way, we won’t grow.”
5. Wise Counsel is usually given by someone who cares about us.
6. Wise Counselors ask questions as they seek to understand. Both of us get clarity in the process.
It’s a good idea to have someone in mind who can give wise counsel before the need arises, because the need will arise! Who do you know who can give you truly wise counsel?
My Wise Counsel Sources:
Why We Must “Seek”
Remember the game “Hide and Seek”? We play this game when we are kids and return to it when we have kids. In “Hide and Seek” (just in case you have been away from earth), the person who is “It” counts to a certain number while all the other players scatter and scramble for a hiding place. The person who is “It” then goes looking for everyone, systematically going from room to room, looking under beds and flinging open closets until all the other kids are found. This is the attitude we need to seek wise counsel. We need to track it down. We need to go on the offense and hunt for it. We need to be the seeker.
Some things to keep in mind when seeking wise counsel:
- We must make the other person comfortable giving us feedback (so we get truth). We need to have a relationship in place and give them permission to offer us feedback.
- We need to be open and ready for the feedback. We need to be coachable, even if it’s not what we had hoped or expected to hear.
- We need to thank the person and be genuinely appreciative of their willingness to give us feedback.
- We need to process the feedback. Think through what has been said. Is it accurate? How might I modify my behavior in light of this feedback?
- We need to decide (finalize #4) what action steps we will take.
- We need to do the action steps that we decided upon. That’s how we grow.
Wise counsel can save us from a great deal of pain. It can protect us from threats we don’t see. It can also help us seize opportunities which otherwise would never have been on our radar screen. It can help us navigate our blindspots by seeing things from another’s point of view. When we take wise counsel and turn it into positive behavior change, we set ourselves up to repeat the process (and receive exponential and compounding benefits!) But when we reject and slam the door in the face of wise counsel, we chop off a rich source of insight which could truly benefit us for years to come.
Seek wise counsel!
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