Portrait of a Squeaky Wheel
Squeaky wheels suck the life out of leaders, teams, and organizations while they claim the high ground for themselves.
Squeaky wheels have aspiration for others and exemption for themselves.
Portrait of a squeaky wheel:
#1. Squeaky wheels disapprove of others and complain about the present. But complaints turn to excuses when you ask, “What would YOU like to do about that?”
Squeaky wheels hide behind the veil of aspiration.
#2. Squeaky wheels complain about a disappointing present and explain a glorious future for OTHERS to build.
Squeaky wheels spend most of their think-time worried about others.
It’s safe to complain about the present while explaining the things OTHERS should do.
Aspiration for OTHERS – while sitting on the sidelines – is self-affirming camouflage.
#3. Squeaky wheels insult those doing the work.
#4. Squeaky wheels see no wrong in themselves.
Time with squeaky wheels:
I’ve been asked on more than one occasion, “How much time should I spend with squeaky wheels?” My reply is, “Probably not as much as you are now.”
Squeaky wheels are evil distractions.
Spend less time with squeaky wheels and more time with those who are making things better.
Daniel Kahneman said, “Nothing is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it.” When a squeaky wheel brings a concern, it becomes the star of the show.
If you spend your think-time with squeaky wheels, all you see are problems.
Squeaky wheels choke progress. Drucker wisely said, “Results are obtained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems. All one can hope to get by solving a problem is to restore normality.”
Question for squeaky wheels:
What opportunity would YOU like to seize?
The next time you spend time with a squeaky wheel, call a few high performers and thank them for their work.
What do squeaky wheels do?
How might leaders deal with squeaky wheels?
Great Drucker quote!
Thanks Ian. It’s one of my favorites. Cheers
Yes a great quote.
Too often a squeaky wheel gives the impression of caring about the company and future but, as you pointed out, they pour energy into criticism but rarely do anything about it.
Had the classic squeaky wheel conversation a few weeks back. Meeting was called to address why the squeaky’s team were always behind in client service delivery. Squeaky arrived armed with lots of data about why others were to blame and what others should do to correct it. Blame appointed to external drafter, the clients, other team members etc.
When asked what he wanted to do about it … nothing, what could he suggest to fix … nothing. Essentially he was just prepared, very well prepared, to indicate why it’s not his fault.
Hey Rob, thanks so much for just using “Squeaky” I love how you used the term as a noun!
What’s troubling is many don’t see the ploy and get sucked into Squeaky’s world. The only thing that does is solidify the past.
Dan. I also think it’s important to ponder why they are squeaky. Turning all that wasted energy into a positive force can have enormous benefits. If you can find something that keeps them well oiled and benefits the organisation it’s win win. I suspect the behaviour is often driven by insecurity.
Thanks Richard. Great point. When I first wrote the post I wrote “chronic” squeaky wheels. Reforming a squeaky wheel may be possible. It won’t be easy. But as you indicate, they have energy. Now if that energy can just be harnessed.
There’s another kind of squeaky wheel that I didn’t write about. It’s the squeaky wheel that is also working hard but they are a dark cloud. I think that’s a squeaky wheel of a different kind.
I’m just back from a trip. I’m hopeful we can connect soon.
Cheers Dan – yes the ‘dark cloud’ variety are the whole freight train!!!
Yup. I have one particular squeaky wheel in my organization.
Thanks Peter. Most organizations have some Squeakers. Maybe organizations should create a Squeaky Department and put all the Squeakers in there.
Squeaky wheel are attention seekers, the more time you give them the more they seek it, the more they demand it. Using strong body language as well as creating boundaries can help.
Thanks Gerry. It’s sad, but squeaking makes some people feel powerful and important. Ugh!
More than once, I hate to admit, I’ve allowed myself to get sucked into Squeaky’s world. I’ve been able to catch and correct myself fairly quickly, but it’s easy to commiserate and end up contributing to the problem. Gotta watch out for that.
I have a squeaky manager that I have a love-hate relationship with. Every conversation is about him. In the past he had more responsibility at the company. At that time the company was a lot smaller. Over time his responsibilities have been stripped from him but he still sees it as someone else’s fault, not his own. He really gets to me because he is always offering other departments help even when his own department is lacking. Or he offers help and when you finally agree he disappears. The problem is, is that he has potential but he is stuck in this never-ending cycle of “poor me”. How can you help a self-absorbed squeaky wheel?