Recently an acquaintance of mine has reached out to me with the following “you are a coach, right? I need your advice“. I said I could try giving them advice as a friend, not a coach, but even that would be less beneficial than asking the right questions.
We are tempted to give advice because it is easier than coaching. Coaching is not consulting though. In coaching, you believe an individual is resourceful and already has answers in them. You dig for gold. What they need is a thinking partner that can help them to see through the fog.
You want the other to feel empowered, so they can make a decision themselves. You want them to start a process of self-discovery and learning.
Giving advice in the coaching process doesn’t usually bring desired outcomes. When you give advice, you are not helping and encouraging the other’s independent thinking. You are helping on a short-term basis, possibly creating dependence and what you say might be quickly forgotten.
When you give advice, you tap into the cognitive brain of your coachee. “When we tell people what to do, we access short-term memory in their cognitive brain where learning is less effective” (Marcia Reynolds) .
There are few instances when the other person can benefit from advice-giving.
This checklist below (adapted from “Coaching skill: the definitive guide to being a coach”)  can serve as a great starting point:
1) There are clear right/wrong answers to a question the person is asking (regarding legal, financial or medical matters).
2) It is a crisis and needs a rapid action.
3) An individual’s physical, financial or mental well-being is in danger.
4) You are offering facts, not opinions.
5) Providing this advice is unlikely to create dependency.
So next time you want to give a piece of advice, stop, think why you are doing it and if the other would benefit from it.
 Marcia, R. (2020). Coach the Person, Not the Problem: A Guide to Using Reflective Inquiry. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
 Rogers, J. (2016). Coaching skills: The definitive guide to being a coach. Maidenhead: Open University Press.