Everyone knows that getting input from others will assist you in your work efforts. Trying to reinvent the wheel on every aspect of your work will take more time and effort than is needed in most cases. It is true that someone has probably done this before and they may be willing to share the experience and knowledge they gained.
Finding good advice is not as easy as some might think, however. Whose advice do you need? How and where do you find it?
Find the right voices. Start thinking about who might know more than you about a given topic. Think of the experts in the field and also those who have been there before you. Now think about who these people are. Will they provide advice at deep levels or do they hold back? Will they demean you or make you feel inferior for even asking? Feeling insulted for not having knowledge in an area does not encourage you to interact with them more. In fact, it pushes you away. So seek out those who are willing to share, and share openly. The best ones are those who can empathize with your pain points and admit the mistakes they made along the way also.
Know what you are looking for. You need to know what you are seeking. Are you just looking for any and all input? That may be fine, but will take more time to filter out the advice that does not fit your target. Start with a focused list in mind. Going into a conversation without an idea of the advice you need may end up in a rambling discussion. Know your issues and concerns. Keep them in mind as you talk with others. Ask some general questions as openers, but move to the targeted questions as soon as you can.
Let the conversation flow. Don’t just pound someone with your list of questions. Let the conversation flow as it should from topic to topic. Chase down a comment with follow-up questions. Allow the other person to divert or branch off, but remember the main question and return to it if needed. Conversations will meander, but should not be allowed to wander aimlessly.
Let the other person talk. Make sure you allow the other person to tell the complete story. You may run into some who drone on and on and never seem to come to a close. Allow them to do this, at least until you find a way to get out of the conversation. Make a note of the person and remember that you will need to listen for extended periods to find that jewel.
Ask for more. When your advisors stop talking, allow for a longer pause. If there is more to tell, they will offer more. If they do not and you think there might be more, ask for it. Just say “anything else on your mind?” or “that was very good – any other ideas or areas to avoid?” The extra information at the end of a topic may be the best. Don’t let it slip through the cracks by moving to another topic too soon.
Listen even when you do not ask a question. Some very good advice is not solicited. It is just offered. When a topic comes up, keep your ears open. There will be much advice given on just about every topic. Listen when others offer advice without you asking for it. Not all free advice is worth nothing.
Listen when others talk. I have learned so much from participating as a listener when others are discussing a topic. Joining a group of people at an event and listening to what they are discussing can provide you with a great resource. It also allows you to interact with others to find out their perspectives on sharing. I don’t like a group of hot shots who trade demeaning remarks about the mistakes of other people. Or those who expect you to know the advanced concepts and offer no easy-to-understand explanations. Look for groups of your peers who are going through the same growing pains you are, but who have made more progress and can share the wisdom they have learned.
Seek advice from other industries. Keep an ear open for what other industries are doing. Rubbing elbows with those who do what you do is easy. Getting connected with those from different industries is harder. Go to events that are offered for other software tools or concepts. Chat with those from other industries to get their perspectives.
By interacting with the right people, on the right topics, at the right time, you will gain so much advice that your efforts will be aided from those conversations, emails, phone calls, and all the other times you get to talk with others.