Graci Leadership Solutions Blog

Leaders, You Want Your Team Members To Complain!


Sadly, Colin Powell, a former Joint Chiefs of Staff, secretary of state, and national security adviser, passed away earlier in October. When I first heard the news, I had a flashback of witnessing a motivational speech he delivered many years ago along with several other national celebrities in Minneapolis, MN.


I took my team to this event at Target Center where Colin Powell had several motivational quotes he posted during his PowerPoint presentation. The one quote that I found rather profound and still refer to it to this day during training classes, webinars, keynotes, and coaching sessions:


"Leadership is solving problems.

The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day

you have stopped leading them."


Over the years, I have worked with leaders on all levels who boast rather loudly that their team members never complain. In essence, they see the lack of complaining as a form of recognition of how well they are doing as a leader. There is an old expression; self-perception can be diluted. Yes, we can have a higher opinion of ourselves than others may have of us, and by not hearing complaints or even feedback, that opinion of ourselves grows larger. You see, those same leaders boasting about how their team does not complain—I bet the team members see the leader as someone who does nothing with a team member's ideas and suggestions. In other words, the team members do not see the leader as a resource.


When I ask leaders during a coaching session their biggest weaknesses, I typically get an awkward pause or silence from the leader. It's almost like they think they do not have any flaws (or they're highly unaware of the areas where they can improve). I often let them know that when it comes to their weaknesses, their team already knows what they do – they are the last to know as a leader.


Leaders, here are a few tips when it comes to listening to your team.

  • Are you listening to everybody on your team or do you fall into the trap of listening to anybody on your team? Even the quietest people on your team have ideas to make your job easier.

  • When someone offers an idea in a group setting, discourage criticism of any kind until all ideas have been presented. If there is a consequence of getting criticized in front of a large group, most likely they will not give information.

  • Follow-up on your team member's ideas and suggestions. Take time to put their ideas into play or get back to them. Let them know why the ideas or suggestions are not feasible at this time.


Listen to everyone on your team. Allow everyone a place at the table to speak freely. Follow up on all team ideas and suggestions. Let them know they are heard and continue to welcome what they have to offer. Complaints are like feedback—necessary for a team and company to grow!


Leaders Are Made, Not Born! Rest in peace Colin Powell.

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