Who are our “Leadership Proteges” vs. our “Serial Complainers”?

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve come to learn as a leader is that in the moment when the members of your team stop coming to you with their problems, you have failed them as the leader…

Allow me to explain…

Most of you leaders would probably agree that one of the worst parts of leadership is having to deal with the “serial complainers” on our teams.  You know, the people who find problems with everything.  I’m not talking about those people who complain or vent every once in a while on their bad days.  I’m talking about those people who who have made up their minds that they don’t to be part of any of the solutions you provide and who find something to complain about with each and every component of their day and each decision you make as the leader. Sound familiar?

However, on the completely other end of the spectrum are some of the easiest people to lead.  You know, those people who never seem to have problem that needs our attention as the leader.  These are the people who you as the leader can trust with just about anything and who just put their head down and do their work and do it well.  And most often, these are the kinds of people we groom to step into leadership positions of their own, right?  Let’s call these people the our “leadership protege”. This probably also sounds familiar, right?

But the reality is, most of the people on our teams sit somewhere in the middle of these two ends of the spectrum.  Most often, the people we lead share characteristic from both of those types of people.  They are “sitting on the fence” somewhere in between turning into “serial complainers” themselves or becoming our next “leadership protege”.  Most members of our teams need our help problem solving and making decisions and they need our support to develop their own problem solving and leadership skills. Here’s the problem; if they don’t trust us enough to come to us in their time of need, then we have failed them as their leader.

That’s why it’s critical for us to build trust with those we lead.  If we provide support for those people “on the fence” then we can steer them away from becoming “serial complainers” themselves and empower them to develop problem solving skills of their own.  If they trust us as leaders enough to come to us with their problems then we create the opportunity to empower them to find a solutions instead of falling into the instinctual trap of serially complaining when things get tough.  In those moments, we have created a culture of teamwork and collective problem solving that fosters creativity and innovation. It builds self-confidence in those we lead where they feel heard and trust that you as the leader want to help them overcome the challenges and problems they face no matter how big or small.

I firmly believe that the best compliment we as leaders can receive from our followers is their trust in us.  There is no better feeling then when those you lead truly believe that you want to support them in their personal development journey’s and when they come to you for support, coaching and guidance.

So if you want those “serial complainers” to change their ways and steer others away from embracing those behaviors themselves, start by listening. No matter how trivial a concern or problem may seem to you, just listen.  When people feel heard they feel empowered and when people feel empowered the opportunities are endless.

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