Advice on giving advice

One way to put a toe in the water of physician entrepreneurship is to become an advisor to a startup founder or client or simply someone who wants your opinion. However, being an advisor that creates value means you have to deliver the 7Ms. You will have to deliver the value that startup CEOs are looking for: money, marketing, making something, management, manpower, mentors, monitoring the environment and mergers and acquisitions.

The same is true if someone asks you to be their mentor. The problem is often that people don’t know how to find a mentor, be a mentor or establish a relationship. The following eight steps can help.

When you get that gig, though, you will have to learn when and how to give advice and how much to give. You also have to deal with founders who have founders syndrome and those who suffer from other entrepreneurial syndromes. In short, many won’t take your advice and you will be left with the feeling that you have wasted your time.

Here’s some advice on giving advice:

  1. When you sign on, clarify expectations about when, how and how often are the best ways to communicate-face to face, email, text or phone, videochat?
  2. Have an agenda focusing on the next critical success factor you need to help achieve. Is it finding money? How about helping to recruit talent to execute the plan and scale?
  3. Avoid having to spend time giving the same advice over and over again by authoring a blog, post or eBook, like this one. Like the flipped classroom, read the assignment and then let’s discuss in class.
  4. If you get ghosted (you haven’t heard from the person who hired you in a while), don’t take it personally. Instead, talk about whether there is a problem, recalibrating your advisory role and whether it should be changed or eliminated.
  5. Use technology to block your time and synchronize schedules
  6. Understand your role as an advisor v a mentor, coach or sponsor. The expectations are different for each.
  7. Don’t work with people you can’t trust, like those who don’t pay you what and when they promised to do so, those who bad mouth you behind your back or those who make you feel unappreciated or ignored or won’t lead when there is inevitable team conflict.
  8. Focus on adding continuous value and delivering results
  9. Assign as much credit for results to others on the team
  10. Here are some tips on how to give advice.

At some point, you have probably noticed that you’re wiser when giving advice to others than you are in making decisions for yourself. You’re not alone. In psychology, it’s called Solomon’s paradox, and it often happens because we have more distance from other people’s problems than our own.

Both the advisee and the advisor have responsibilities so be careful how you pick someone’s brain.

Remember Socrates who said “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.” By it’s very nature, advice is just that and can be accepted or ignored. Make it personal, just don’t take it personally when it’s the latter.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs and Co-editor of Digital Health Entrepreneurship