How to Complain Like a Leader
Habitual complainers stink like babies with dirty diapers. But everyone who brings up difficult issues, problems, and concerns isn’t an energy sucking complainer.
3 types of complainers:
#1. Complainers who excuse their complaining because of the imperfection of others.
Some complainers never get their own hands dirty. Their skills, talents, and position give them permission to stand aloof from imperfect others. Arrogance is ‘too good’ to connect.
#2. Complainers who want others to change, but don’t think of changing themselves.
Chronic complaining is a feeble attempt to overcome feelings of helplessness. It’s easier to complain about others than to deal with yourself.
#3. Complainers with dirt under their nails.
Some complainers care deeply about making things better. They’re making positive contributions. Teams tolerate their complaining because they’re also contributing.
How to complain like a leader:
- Take responsibility – without exception – to make everything you complain about better. The most terrifying responsibility is acknowledging that you contributed to the environment you’re complaining about. Standing aloof is blind arrogance.
- Never complain about things you can’t change.
- The weather.
- How quickly time passes.
- The past, including the choices you made.
- Other people’s behaviors or attitudes.
- An unworthy person’s good fortune. Sure, they don’t deserve it. So what!
- Your current circumstances.
- Face-forward when complaining. What do you want?
- Seek solutions when complaining. What are you solving?
- Be tougher on yourself than you are on others. Complain three times about yourself, every time you complain once about others, if you’re inclined to be a complainer. Make this a hard and fast rule.
Bonus: Offer three positives for every negative that comes out of your mouth, without exception.
What needs to be true for complaining to be an exercise in effective leadership?
**I just found a post I wrote last year: How to Complain Like a Leader. (I think I like the old one better. What about you?)
Yes, both blogs point us forward, but your earlier one was more inspiring. 🙂
Thanks Neil. I’m with you. After I re-read the first one, I thought it was better. 🙂
I agree both blogs focus forward. I think the earlier one is more leadership oriented – what you should do and guidelines; whereas this one defines complainers into categories – maybe wake up a few complainers of the first two types – and provides advice on how to use complaints better.
I also liked the book “The No Complaining Rule” which has similar messages.
It’s too easy to take the easy path and complain about things – much harder to actually do something about them.
Thanks Rob. The No Complain Rule was my first introduction to Jon Gordon’s work. He’s a real inspiration. Thanks for mentioning his work.
Dan both articles complement and complete each other. None can be called better than other. Thanks
Great advice. The former post is very interesting to me, as I was looking forward to help my direct reports to be more proactive instead of just complaining.
I have subscribed to your newsletter but have been unable to print any of the articles?
While I enjoyed them both, I also liked the first post better. Thanks for reposting the one from last year! The questions to ask when a teammate complains is a great way gain further understanding of their complaint and reframe the conversation to understand the thoughts behind the complaint.