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WHEN THE CAPTAIN HEADS TOWARD AN ICEBERG: HOW TO ADDRESS YOUR LEADER RECEIVING BAD ADVICE

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

We’ve all been there: watching in dismay when a leader, who you believe has the best intentions, starts getting bad advice from a colleague, a higher-up, or even from HR. It can be frustrating, disheartening, and even infuriating when you see decisions made based on this misguided advice, especially when it impacts your work environment or team dynamics.


But what can you do as an employee in such a situation, when the captain heads toward an iceberg, to protect your interests and help your leader navigate through this challenging time?


The consequences of following bad advice can be dire, whether because of inexperience, ego, lies, or lack of information. With that in mind, team members must exercise critical thinking and assertiveness to prevent this sinking ship from happening.


Below, you will find strategies that can be leveraged when you find yourself in that sticky situation where your leader gets bad advice.


IDENTIFY AND ASSESS THE BAD ADVICE

Before intervening in the advice-giving process, it’s essential to recognize and assess the flawed recommendation. What makes it bad advice? What consequences will arise if it’s followed through? How do you know it’s bad advice? Is there any data available to support your claim?


Developing a clear understanding of the issues with the advice allows for a more robust argument, pointing out the blind spots and highlighting the better options.


TIMING AND APPROACH

The success of addressing the leader’s bad advice depends on the timing and approach. It’s best to avoid confronting the leader in a public setting as this might come across as an attempt to undermine their authority. Instead, request a private and formal meeting where you can present your concerns in an organized manner.


During the meeting, maintain a fair and neutral tone. Avoid personalizing your message and refrain from attacking the advisor. Remember, you intend to show concern towards the practical implications of the bad advice, not to shame or belittle anyone. If available, present your thoughts, respectfully and data and observe your leader’s reactions to adjust your communication accordingly.


OFFER ALTERNATIVES

Inadequate advice is usually easier to swallow when there’s an alternative solution. Make sure you are armed with a better approach or idea. Try understanding the initial goal or intention behind the flawed advice and think of different ways to reach the desired outcome. It shows your competence and conveys that you genuinely care about solving the problem rather than merely criticizing it.


BUILD YOUR COALITION

Support is critical in situations of dissent. If others see the flaws in the advice given to the leader, reach out to others who share the same concerns. Building a network of like-minded colleagues can substantiate your stance and open the door for a collective discussion that’s hard to ignore. Remember, however, not to form this coalition in a divisive manner. Your objective is to find support for your argument, not to create rival factions within the organization.


ESCALATION

When all else fails, it might be necessary to take the more challenging route of escalating your concerns to a higher level or another party with the influence to intervene. Be cautious when taking this step, as it may harm your relationship with your leader and reduce trust.


In this scenario, reflect on the possible consequences of staying silent and weigh them against the potential outcomes of escalation. If the detrimental impacts of bad advice are too significant to ignore, speak to a trusted higher-up who is most likely to be receptive to your concerns.


LIFE RAFT?

Addressing the dilemma of a leader receiving bad advice demands a balance of diplomacy, assertiveness, and critical thinking. While your goal may be to ensure that the best decisions are made, navigating this situation without damaging relationships or creating a hostile environment is imperative.


Employ the strategies discussed here to help your leader stay on the right course and foster a culture of open communication, improvement, and collaboration.


Remember, the success of a ship ultimately lies in the hands of its entire crew, not just its captain.




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