You Don't Get to Complain
Sharon, an outspoken former Vice President of HR, had a unique leadership philosophy. She stated "you don't get to complain unless you have a plan to follow up." In other words, you don't have the right to complain, unless you have a solution to offer.
How often do you complain? Several years ago, I read a book by Jon Gordon titled The No Complaining Rule. The premise behind the book is that we waste time, energy and spirit by complaining. When we are bogged down by the negativity that complaining generates, we cannot have a positive impact on our lives or the lives of others.
This does not mean that there is no room for challenging ideas or beliefs. On the contrary, leaders must stand up and productively challenge ideas with viable alternatives. In turn, our solution-oriented nature becomes a force of major attraction to others. Why? People are naturally drawn to leaders who are solution-oriented and welcome challenges.
Curbing the Complaints
Unfortunately, complaining has been a major weakness of mine over the years. It has been the glass ceiling of my leadership journey. I have complained, grumbled, and pouted, but have often failed to offer alternatives or solutions. Are you like me? Then, how can we curb the complaints and become a more productive leader? Here are some insights from my interviews:
- Develop a solution-oriented mindset. Solve problems, don't create them with a poor attitude, brash comment, negative body language, or distracting behavior.
- Avoid the trap! Complaining often fuels gossip, stretches the truth, and warps your reputation. Avoid the trap of airing your complaints to the wrong person, in the wrong venue, or without a viable solution.
- Use the power of questions. Questions are often a leader's best tool because they shed light on the purpose behind words, decisions, and behaviors. Effective leaders use questions as a mechanism to guide others towards solving their own problems.
- Find the lesson behind the challenge. There is a lesson behind any challenge. How can you use this to prepare you for future decisions and action?
- Develop a Support Network. Everyone does need to vent from time to time; however, we often forget to limit our venting to a trusted support network. We don't need to share everything with everyone. As one leader put it, "just because you have a thought, doesn't mean you have to express it." Use your support network to get it out, focus on the things you can control, and then let what you can't control.
- Exercise the 24 hour rule. A friend of mine introduced me to the 24 hour rule. You are allowed to be as upset as you want for exactly one day. Vent to your support network. Have a bad attitude or throw a temper tantrum in private. After 24 hours, you need to move on and let go of what you can't control.
- You are responsible for you. I recently heard a speaker suggest, "People have a lot of problems. Why make them yours?" It is a good reminder that you are responsible for you. In other words, you are responsible for your actions, words, behaviors, and attitude. It's not to say that you shouldn't be concerned about other people; however, you need to realize that you cannot solve everyone's problems. You are only responsible to yourself and your responsibilities.
Sharon taught me a valuable lesson. Leaders do not have the right to complain. Instead, effective leaders must be solution-oriented and avoid the trap of gossip. They must use the power of questions to influence and shed light on problematic areas. They realize that problems are nothing out of the ordinary. Instead, they try to view the lesson behind the challenge.
For more information on my 50 Leaders in One Year Journey, please visit the following link.