One of my most valued lessons learned through my formal and informal leadership training is learning how to harness the power of experiential feedback. This type of feedback exchanges “I think you should…” for “In my experience…” This approach gives one the perspective of others who may have trod similar paths, or whose experiences paralleled a new challenge. What might appear to be a minor shift in perspective can actually be a powerful tool for aiding one in thinking through the particular elements of a novel problem, and crafting a solution not apparent from one’s original analysis.
I’ve used this technique as a CEO, a mentor, wife, mother and friend. While it can be satisfying to tell people what you think they should do, my experience has also taught me that it is more valuable to the receiver to share one’s own experiences--not merely give advice. By telling someone what to do, you presume you know exactly what she is going through. And really, isn’t it better to share a personal experience--”here’s my story of confronting a similar problem”-- as a means to impart wisdom?
For example, I recently was asked for my advice by a business owner struggling to deal with a key employee’s sub-par performance; this was a long-term employee whom the owner felt had lost his drive. I was able to share my experience dealing with a similar situation with an unmotivated key employee, and described what I had learned from it--both positive and negative.
The sharing of my experience, rather than lecturing or giving advice, gave the business owner a different viewpoint from which he was able to take what resonated for him and re-strategize a better solution.