As we discuss the dangers of complaining, rest assured: there is still, of course, room for critical thinking and venting.
There are times and relationships in which complaining is appropriate. Sometimes crappy things happen and you really can’t control or change them. So if you need to vent, vent. But be super intentional and purposeful about it! Acknowledge that what you are doing is venting, set a time limit on it, and then go for it. Allow yourself to full-on vent, complain, and whine to your trusted inner circle, your journal, or even yell out loud while alone (long commutes are fantastic for this). Lick your wounds. Do whatever you need to do to get it all out. Then, when the time’s up, move on. Make a request and see what happens for you next!
Similarly, I don’t meant to suggest there’s no room here for your solid critical thinking when and where you disagree with something. The invitation here isn’t to stop offering that; instead, it is to consider how you can channel your critique into something useful and constructive. Go ahead and say so if the idea on the table is really bad, but be a Challenger and be sure you don’t forget to also add your contribution to your criticism:
- “So that leaves me thinking we need to ___”, or
- “But what I’d like to discuss before we decide is what happens if we add X to this proposal?”
The takeaway here is to ensure you apply yourself in a manner that represents a higher form of contribution. Take personal responsibility and be part of owning the solution like we talked about in Week 4 (Executive Presence — Bringing it).
Making requests is a powerful way to foster collaborative relationships with others and to work toward creating win-win solutions. When you make a request, you transform the role you’ve cast the other person in. Now, the other person becomes a co-creator; someone to make something new with. A collaborator, in the truest sense of the word. It’s also a route to being happier, more in touch with the reality of your current circumstances, and more productive because you are taking responsibility and doing what you can to create the outcomes you say you want to create. How exciting!
Being skillful at making requests is how, as a leader, you initiate action.