I have instituted a new rule at work: You can complain all you want, but you have to make a suggestion. My job in a nutshell is to facilitate strategic planning and then coordinate tactical execution of the plan. I was working with a team awhile back that was in a downward spiral.
“This is never gonna work.”
“Our boss has ridiculous expectations.”
“We don’t have enough information to be successful.”
To some extent, airing our grievances can bind us together as a team. “I hate this. Yeah, me too.” – There’s value in that. But this had gone on too long and we were just plain wasting time. So, with whiteboard markers in hand I said, “I hear your concerns and you have really valid points. I can’t disagree with anything that you’ve said. But what are we going to do about it?” Blink….blink…I made another pass at it. “We’re not happy with the current plan, but it is what it is, so what can we, in this room, right now, do to make it better?” When someone finally spoke, it was another complaint. “OK,” I said. “What do you suggest?” It was starting to get awkward and between you and me, I was starting to sweat. But finally, someone came up with an idea. I pounced on it. I put their idea on the whiteboard and started asking questions about it. After a while, the momentum shifted and we began putting together a list and a schedule and all the stuff that I’m good at.
On the drive home, I was reviewing the meeting in my mind and found that it was an interesting analogy for life. What makes you unhappy? What do you wish was different? What are you going to do about it?