Smart professionals know the value of mentors, coaches, and professional advisors, but not all advice is created equal. You can ask as many experts as you like, but you still have to filter the advice, determining what is right for you and your specific situation.
How do you know which advice to ignore and which to take to heart and act upon? Here's what I tell my clients.
Match your problems and questions with your mentors' areas of expertise.
I recommend to my clients that they seek out mentors from all walks of life: industry experts, influencers, problem solvers, and leadership experts. If you are expanding your operations, you don't want to talk to someone who's read a lot about it. Find someone who has a proven track record of success that reaches far beyond where you hope to be in a year from now.
Sometimes you need more than one opinion.
I always say that pearls of wisdom are found in larger chunks of information, much of which is disposable. You won't get all of the answers and guidance you need from just one mentor, advisor, or coach. You may have to piece together information and insights to make it your own and apply it to the bigger picture. Consult with advisors from all walks of life. You never know, sometimes your mom may add the most value! View advice in the abstract, seeing a collage of action steps and ideas take shape and choose the ones that are best suited to you.
Don't worry about bruising anyone's ego.
You have every right to reject advice; sometimes you will be correct in doing so, other times you'll wish you had listened. Your mentors have achieved their success by failing, probably more than once. They certainly want to help you pave an easier path, but ultimately, they know the decisions are yours to make. As long as you learn and grow from your experiences, your advisors are likely to hang in there with you.
Get the information out of your head.
If all of the advice and information are stored in your brain, you'll get a whopping headache but not much of an answer. Your brain can't disassociate from an overload of information, which it must do in order to isolate the pieces that best fit into the puzzle and solve the problem for you.
Use a mind map, list, or crayons and markers to create a visual representation of your choices. This is when the ah-ha moments happen.
Follow the voice of experience.
Let's say that three out of four experienced people recommend a specific course of action, but you're still not sure about what to do. Examine your resistance to find the reason for your hesitance. You may feel threatened or frightened by your next steps, or you may not have gotten the answers you were hoping for. Good advice is not always easy to hear.
Heed the advice that comes to you from two or more qualified experts; they know the pitfalls because they've been there. With that said, never dismiss your gut feelings. If you are very intuitive and can tell the difference between gut instinct and emotionally-based feelings, always put your intuition first. More on that below.
Follow Your Instincts.
I can honestly say that anytime I've followed poor advice, deep down inside I knew I was doing the wrong thing. Strong feelings, such as excitement and fear, are like blinders that contribute to poor choices. At a subconscious level we all know what's best for us and our business, but we can't always access that information on our own. So, we turn to the experts: mentors, coaches, the next-door neighbor. Don't jump the gun on their input. Instead, evaluate it using data, logic, and most importantly, your intuition. Tune into your heart or gut or wherever you "feel" things and you won't go wrong.
If you don't have a selection of experienced people to whom you turn for guidance, consider making it a priority to find some. If you think hard enough, you'll realize that you know people who are perfect for the job. If not, search online, ask reliable connections for an introduction to a mentor candidate, and keep your eyes open for your next mentor, including a great coach. Most successful people wish to help, all you have to do is ask.