HR & Leadership

‘Be Humble,’ and 5 Other Pieces of Terrible Advice

July 28, 2021

There’s no shortage of terrific tips and inspirational advice out there for every situation imaginable. One of the best we’ve seen recently, for example, is this Redditor’s trick for turning flat hotel pillows into non-lumpy firm ones. Genius.

But what about the bad stuff—specifically, bad career advice? We’re talking about those nuggets of “wisdom” that sounded smart at the time but wound up being really dumb. It’s one of our favorite ice-breaker questions since the answer often reveals a lot about the person, with a bonus what not to do. So we asked leaders in the OpenView network to tell us the worst advice they’ve ever gotten, and here’s what they said:

“‘Be humble.’ Especially in the age of social media, no one knows what you’re doing or what you’re capable of if you don’t talk about it. Keeping your head down only serves your competition.”
–Dr. Julie Gurner, Managing Partner and Executive Performance Coach at Gurner LLC


“‘You either have natural, innate leadership abilities, or you do not. There is no in-between.’ This advice was given to me early in my career by someone I had, up to that point, looked up to. It took me about a year to ‘unlearn’ this advice and understand that most people have the capacity for leadership if they have supportive leadership, opportunities to learn, and, most importantly, a growth mindset.”
–Chris de Jong, Director of Marketing at 7shifts


“‘It’ll all work out!’ While true—things will work out—this advice precludes any forethought or action to get a tough situation to the best outcome. Instead, one is stuck with whatever the outcome may be, rather than creating or influencing it.”
–Anne Hollander, Senior Director of Product Marketing and Growth at Trimble


“I was a product manager. When I went to my then-manager to discuss how to handle being overloaded with a major release, his response was, ‘Time slice your tasks.’ How he became a VP, I have no idea.”
–Saeed Khan, Founder of Transformation Labs


“‘It will take a massive team to create this product.’ We did it with one designer and two developers.”
–Ryan Frederick, Principal at AWH


“I don’t think there’s ever been a single ‘worst’ advice. Advice is broad and plentiful; however, it’s important to understand the context of the person sharing. What previously worked for them may not work for you. Their business was different—it could have been years ago in a different market environment. So I believe that there is no worst advice, but you have to listen beyond the advice directly and look at what their thought process was, which has led them to that advice. That’s the real advice, and it’s never bad—just misunderstood until you truly listen and understand.”
–Chris Raethke, CEO at Notiv

Header photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

More wisdom from SaaS leaders

Partner at OpenView

Casey leads the end-to-end strategy & programming for OpenView’s network of industry experts, advisors & corporate partners. Her role is focused on creating connections between founders & their teams and the partners, advisors, board members & events they need to reach their goals. Additionally, she manages the OpenView portfolio peer networks and hosts the #WeeklyWalk series.