Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Making use of Complaints

As a leader, how do you make use of complaints that come your way?

As a leader, you are probably used to receiving complaints.  In a business environment, you probably receive complaints from customers, clients, or staff.  In a school environment, you likely get complaints from students, staff, parents, and possibly even the broader community.  How do you use these complaints?  Do you try to brush them aside?  Do you move into defense mode in order to justify the actions that led to the complaints?  Or do you accept the complaints and use them? 

With fear of stating what might seem obvious, complaints can come from two places.  First, complaints come because we made a mistake.  Secondly, complaints come because people believe we made a mistake.  In the first instance, if we've made a mistake, we need to apologize immediately and set about planning how we are going to rectify the situation.  In the second case, it's more challenging.  Somebody thinks you or your organization hasn't done a good job.  This is the kind of situation where you need to invite the complainant to a conversation in order to sort things out.  In cases such as these, there is often a lot of emotion at play so it will demand all of your EI (Emotional Intelligence) skills.  It might be a slow process but it's one you need to take in the interests of addressing incorrect assumptions about you, your staff, or the work you are doing. 

The bottom line?  Make use of complaints. Use feedback from disgruntled people to determine the issues and then set about putting them right. Reach out to those who complain and find out what you can do differently.


  1. Maybe even welcome them. :)
    “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”
    Colin Powell

  2. I think this is one of the most important, but most difficult, attribute a real leader should have. Being a leader needs confidence and it takes a long time to build up the confidence and that links to the reputation of one's leadership.
    once reputation has been established, meanwhile a lot of people look upon you, it will be difficult to accept complaints about our leadership.
    But let history teaches us that when a King does not accepting complaints in a positive way, the throne is starting to fall.

  3. Jan, your quotation says it all. Thanks so much for sharing it. It's left me with lots to think about.....