Cry-Babies Don’t Create Solutions

Leaders are problem-solvers. But it’s easy to mistake complaining about problems for actually solving problems.

Photo Courtesy Brandon Baunach (flickr: bbaunach), Creative Commons
Photo Courtesy Brandon Baunach (flickr: bbaunach), Creative Commons

Every organization has problems. When you’re new in town (or simply in the office), it’s incredibly easy to spot opportunities for improvement. It’s also easy to sink into complaining with your new coworkers, especially if it makes it easier to fit in.

Those decisions you make– whether early in your career or when you’re already established– to do your brainstorming around the water cooler could make a difference when it’s time to take a leadership role.

The truth is, nobody builds influence by backbiting or trying to get ahead by tearing others down. It can be tempting to take advantage of a superior’s mistakes or time of weakness; rather than trying to stamp out your “competition” or climb to the top with a boot in your coworkers’ face, be a solution-producer.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Complain Less: Complaining feels good, right? Cut it out. You’re eroding your influence with coworkers (even your co-complainers). Besides, suppose your boss gets wind that you’re a pot-stirrer. Farewell, trust.
  • Serve More: Find a way to offer your help to a struggling coworker or boss. Whether he or she is suffering from burn-out or problem-solvers’-block, some help will be appreciated. Just don’t offer your help in a way that says “you’re not doing well.”
  • Develop and Invest in Your Ideas: For a long time, I really struggled with offering ideas as soon as they popped into my head. At least most of these were great ideas that needed a little nurturing. Unfortunately, I’ve found that some coworkers (and even managers) are eager to let the air out of your balloon. Develop your ideas before you share them.
  • Seek Input: Find a trusted leader or coworker and get his or her input on your ideas. Get lunch. Float your ideas. Ask for help strengthening the weak spots so that your now-developed ideas have some push. In addition to strengthening the ideas, you’ll secure some buy-in from a coworker or leader.
  • Test the Waters: Try out some of those ideas on your current situation. See how guests or customers react to the tweaks you’ve made to the way you view and execute your work. Work out the kinks and use the time to perfect the new solutions.
  • Present Your Success: When you’ve developed your ideas, sought input, secured buy-in, and tested the waters, it’s time to report to the boss. If he or she is engaged in team members’ daily work, you may have had other opportunities to present your ideas. The most powerful illustrations of your solutions, though, are those times when they turn a problem into an opportunity…and you knock it out of the park.

Examine your heart! If you’re seeking to displace a boss or climb over coworkers, you’ll find limited success. With a heart to serve, your personal transformation could extend to the entire organization.

Have you been climbed over before? How did it affect your ideas about how to “get to the top”? How can you get there with the respect and admiration of your coworkers?


5 thoughts on “Cry-Babies Don’t Create Solutions

  1. Great post, Justin. I tell my clients that whenever they start to complain they should ask themselves, “what is the opportunity in this situation.” We often forget Napoleon Hill’s advice to look for the seed of an equal or greater benefit inside every opportunity. Asking this question is the quickest way to move from complaining to creating I have found.

  2. Justin, what if a leader is too stubborn to listen to advice even if it is the majority? I have experienced this. The leader thought we were like ‘against’ new ideas, which is completely false. We pointed out the flaws and gave tips for improvement. From this I learned that giving positive feedback can be interpreted as complaints by leaders.

    1. Sam,

      It can be easy to get defensive when ideas are being laid out in front of the group. Sometimes, I’ve found it’s better to voice opinions in the form of a “Have you thought about…” or “Do you think…” This gives a cooperative tone, and your leader might brainstorm an even better solution with your input. It also allows for insecure leaders to make the idea their own, which can be frustrating but productive.

      Thanks for your input!

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