I remember him well. He was a six-foot tall, silver-haired male who joined every one of our team meetings and proceeded to point out what was wrong with the change effort being discussed. He did it with authority, and always led with, “I know this won’t be popular, but it must be said.”
I thought he was brilliant.
Looking back, I realize he was just a complainer attempting to stall every single initiative. I know this because not once did I ever hear him offer a productive solution. Not once did a project under his guidance move forward.
Those who complain will often come across as leaders of change. They insist on being a part of every team that deals with a new initiative. They actively participate in the conversation. Their language is compelling, and they will often say, “I’m behind this effort 100%,” but they’ll conclude with, “It just needs to be done correctly.”
Then the stall begins.
Complainers vs. Change Warriors
Here are three ways you can distinguish the difference between a Complainer and a Change Warrior:
I remember one leader who refused to acknowledge a significant shift to a sales culture in our company. He “defended” his team by telling them they didn’t have to sell, even when everyone else was making it work. Ultimately, his region was ranked last in the results category. Ten years later, it was still ranked last. They never recovered from his complaint.
Don’t confuse a Complainer with a Change Warrior.
How to Stop a Complainer
I went to a manager once with a list of things to be fixed. I was in my mid-twenties, so I knew everything.
He listened very patiently, and then said:
For every complaint you have, I’d like to hear your proposal for a solution to the problem. It doesn’t have to be doable or detailed, I just would like to know how you would fix this.
I had nothing to say. I was a Complainer, not a Change Warrior. His statement changed my approach to life in general.
Question: How do you differentiate Complainers from Change Warriors?