For technology executives, the one constant is change. However, as humans, we are by nature, creatures of habit. This could easily explain why so many folks are resistant to change. Change does not, by definition, feel familiar. It’s awkward, different and for many, uncomfortable. But like all things new, we can choose how we respond to change. My experience suggests there are not many folks that respond to change with indifference. Instead, it seems most people fit into one of two categories: Winners or Whiners.
When I was working on turning around a large back-office technology project, there was one individual who was thrilled to be a part of the “new solution”. Although she had a vested interest in the old way, she looked to the future, realized things were broken and was anxious to be recognized for a successful project. As a result, she often came with a proposal for improvements, new technologies, processes or ideas. She understood the need for change, would lay out the problem in detail, explain why it was a problem and often have two or more recommendations for solving the problem. She was a winner because she embraced the change, identified roadblocks and problems with the old school of thought and proposed solutions based on solid examples.
Of course, at the opposite end of the spectrum are individuals that resist change with a defeatist attitude. While the term may seem derogatory, “whiner” underscores where most of the effort is placed by these individuals. Certainly, it is not intentional. I don’t think anyone, regardless of their frustration level, says, “today, I am just going to complain about what’s going on at the office”. Instead, some personnel, when faced with change, spend a lot of effort thinking about the negative side (not unlike their winner counterparts). The problem is, whiners stop there. And why not? It’s easier to stop there and just tell their coworkers about the pain. Where whiners turn into winners is when they make that extra effort, they go that extra mile and do something about the negatives. Instead of simply communicating the problem(s), they become a part of the solution.
Whiners and Winners are in every organization. When you find winners, great, leverage them as examples to the whiners. When you find whiners, remember – they’re not setting out to just complain, they’re just stopping too soon. Ask them what they would do about the problem they mentioned? How would they improve the environment? What process would they use to avoid it from happening again? Then make them a part of the accepted solution. Without commitment and a role in the solution, it will be too easy to revert back to the Whiner.
Whatever you do, do not become a whiner yourself. Anytime you catch yourself complaining – especially in front of your team, be certain you come up with a solution and communicate it to them. This holds true for commiserating as well. Nodding in agreement with complaints without putting the complainer to task at finding a solution, makes you a whiner too. So make sure you’re thinking like a winner and presenting solutions to your problems while putting your team to task, doing the same. Go the extra mile, set the example for your teams and build winners out of the whiners.