Wednesday, September 12, 2007

5 Ways to Avoid Acting on Stupid Advice

You?ve heard that the path to the netherworld is paved with good intentions, haven't you?

Right next to that observation should be a kindred one:

Before people experience major life and business reversals or they fail to step-up to the next level of success there is often a flawed tip, a bad piece of advice, or an incomplete or incompetent instruction that was whispered to the falling or stalling that they acted upon to their detriment.

One of the worst bits of advice I ever got was from an attorney who didn?t like a liability clause in the contract offered by a major production company, a division of an entertainment Goliath, interested in putting my seminar on video.

His concern, I later learned, was a non-risk really, something that fairly common insurance policies found in TV and film projects will protect a client against. But my lawyer didn?t know about it.

Between my attorney being clueless and the studio attorney being insistent, the deal went down in flames.

It?s hard to assess exactly how much that snafu cost me, though I know the contract price, even in today?s dollars, is respectable and attractive, surpassing any book advance I?ve received.

The royalties, prestige, and client generating power as well as the first-to-the-market, competitor-beating component of doing this project would put the overall value at, conservatively, a half-million to three million bucks, though the specific loss is incalculable.

I learned to be more proactive in protecting myself from inept advisers.

One way I did it was by putting myself through law school and through an MBA program, after I had already earned a Ph.D. in my regular field.

You don?t have to take such drastic measures.

Here are five ways to avoid similar, unfortunate and damaging outcomes when you?re getting advice from anyone: a lawyer, doctor, consultant, coach, teacher, trainer, or accountant or well-meaning relative:

(1) Remember credibility and capabilities are SUBJECT SPECIFIC. The attorney I mentioned was first-rate in copyrights and trademarks, but he was the new guy on the set in an entertainment law context. No attorney or professional is up to date and savvy in every nook and cranny of their fields. Only work with them in their area of strength.

(2) Don?t be a doctor?s first surgery. There is a reason med students practice on cadavers, dead people, because they?re dead, and no harm can be done. Still, if you can avoid it, you don?t want to be someone?s FIRST CASE, in medicine, law, accounting, or anything else.

(3) Don?t be a professional?s LAST CASE, either. People at the end of careers are more interested in wheeling their grandkids to parks than preparing for your project. Another lawyer inadvertently confessed to me ?I?ve come into the office less than half-time during this past summer.? Believe me, it delayed our progress on a time-sensitive matter.

(4) Seek and get second and third opinions. Joel Edelman, author of THE TAO OF NEGOTIATION, and my Mediation professor in law school, notes that 95% of professionals are so incapable that he would not trust them with handling his personal or professional matters. His purpose isn?t to bash them, and neither is mine. Most are hard working, but anyone can be wrong on any given day, or too lazy to do his homework, to your detriment. Moreover, one attorney, upon hearing your story might detect only two issues in it, and the attorney in the next office would detect six, all of which require exploration. Second opinions are time consuming to get, and potentially costly, but they?re worth it.

(5) Don?t let the ?props? commonly associated with success daze you and make you suspend your healthy skepticism. Offices in the ritziest building in town are a sound investment because they symbolize success, but don?t let them lull you into thinking you hired ?the best.? The first thing con men do is adorn themselves with the Rolexes and expensive suits and fancy leased cars. At the same time, low-overhead outfits aren?t always the most efficient or effective. The difference in actual costs may be higher to you if you resort to a bargain basement advisor.

The best of us can make mistakes in choosing consultants, coaches, and professionals and in evaluating their advice.

Follow these five tips and you'll be more likely to act only on suggestions that will lead you to success.

Dr. Gary S. Goodman is the best-selling author of 12 books and more than a thousand articles. His seminars and training programs are sponsored internationally and he is a top-rated faculty member at more than 40 universities. Dynamic, experienced, and lots of fun, Gary brings more than two decades of solid management and consulting experience to the table, along with the best academic preparation and credentials in the speaking and training industry. Holder of five degrees, including a Ph.D. from the Annenberg School For Communication at USC, an MBA from the Peter F. Drucker School of Management, and a law degree from Loyola, his clients include several Fortune 1000 companies along with successful family owned and operated firms across America. Much more than a ?talking head,? Gary is a top mind that youʼll enjoy working with and putting to use. He can be reached at:

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