“Gratitude is riches.
Complaint is poverty.”
We have all been there. Someone does not do something we asked him or her to do and we get fired up. We are the leader after all, shouldn’t our team or followers do what we asked? We are absolutely certain we made our wants perfectly clear – how could they foul this up?! Those who screwed up are the issue, and we now are warranted to spend time complaining about them to whomever we think should hear it. That’s it. Let’s get back at them because they are at fault. Does not really sound very leader-like now does it? So, what to do?
Let’s shift how we are looking at this. What is a complaint? From a leadership perspective a complaint is simply a very ineffective request. If I want John to do something differently, moaning about it to Dave is inefficient and counterproductive, it doesn’t help the situation, or John. So what does it take to make an effective request? Let’s look:
- A clearly identified speaker and listener: You are obviously the speaker, and for it to be an effective request it must be delivered to the person whom you are requesting something from. It is critical that person knows they are the one that something is being requested of. Pretty simple: “John, I have a request of you.”
- Conditions of satisfaction to a shared standard: What exactly are you requesting? The clearer you are with what you want, the more likely the performer of the request can actually commit to it. Continuing our example, with John, the conditions of satisfaction to a shared standard could be: “Will you please stop by my office this morning and pick up the Division Q1 Sales report that we discussed in today’s meeting so that you can proofread it for the next meeting.”
- Shared background of obviousness: A shared background of obviousness means to make sure that the person to whom you are making the request and you have the same understanding of exactly what the terms or specifics of the request are. For instance, in the above example, since you and John were in the same meeting and the Division Q1 Sales report is a standard report that your organization discusses, you might not need to worry about you and John having a shared background of obviousness – you do. But if John were not in the meeting, he might not know what you are talking about.
- Specified time for fulfillment: When exactly do you want the request fulfilled? This may seem obvious to you, but to the listener/performer it may not be. The clearer this is the more likely the performer can commit to the timeframe you are discussing. In our above example, “stop by my office this morning” is clear, as is the timeframe of the task completion – “for the next meeting.”
- For the sake of what?: Why are you making the request? The clearer you are in conveying the purpose of the request and perhaps how it fits into a larger picture, the easier it will be for the performer to have the context and motivation to complete the request. In our above example, John will know that you need him to proofread the report by the next meeting so everyone will have accurate information.
- The mood of the request: This applies to both you, the requester, and also to the performer. If you are making a request in anger or frustration, it will be a very different request than if you are making the request in a mood of ambition or possibility. The same applies for the performer. If the performer is in a mood of resignation or frustration, they will likely perform the request in the same mood. But what if they are in a mood of possibility and ambition? That will likely lead to a very different outcome for their performance. Moods and Emotions determine what actions we take, as requestors and performers, and they are critical to take into account if we are to have an effective request performed successfully.
So the next time you want to complain about the performance of one of your associates, change the game; instead of complaining about that person, actually make a better request directly to them. The clearer and more effective your requests the more likely you will be getting what you want, and less likely you will have to complain about others. So, go make an effective request – or clean up an old one that is not doing the job.