Brilliant Manoeuvre
Complaining isn’t necessarily a sign of bad morale. In fact, the opposite is quite often true. If people stop talk, that’s when you should be worried.

Morale is the willingness to fight, to persevere, and to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve victory. When morale is good, people care enough to complain because they know that things can be better, and that there is a better way to achieve the aim. When I was in the Army, I knew that things were amiss when my subordinates got too quiet. This was a sure sign to me that it was time to get them together so we could talk things out. Sometimes, I would stand my ground while explaining my decisions and plans. At least then my people had felt heard and understood my reasoning. They could then better appreciate the decision and apply it as if it were their own. Often, however, it was an opportunity for me to find out what had gone wrong or where I had been mistaken. I could then adjust my decisions and plans to take the suggestions (and complaints) into account if they made sense. The same applies in business, if you are hearing complaints from your people, or hear about them indirectly, it may be time to sit down with them to find out what is happening. You may be surprised at what you’ll learn.

Set aside regular time, at least once or twice a month, to meet with all your direct reports to hear from them. Ask them what they understand about the situation you’re in. Tell them what your understanding of the situation is and what you plan to do about it. Use this time to garner their input and to make suggestions for improvements. In the Army this tradition is known as ‘platoon commander’s hour,’ but you can also institute your own ‘CEO’s hour’ or ‘manager’s hour.’

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2013 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

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