In his latest masterwork, This is Marketing, Seth Godin says the best way to complain is to make things better. If only this were everyone’s default way of complaining. We can vocalize our compliant and tell everyone we know about how wrong something or someone else is or we can choose to make things better.
We can complain that the video isn’t what we think it should be and not give good feedback to the videographer. Or, we can take the reins like a good Creative Director and tell them exactly what we want and where we want it and complete the project tomorrow.
We can complain about the cost of printing and shipping our marketing materials out to people. Or, we can get more decisive with our creations and put them exclusively online, changing behavior.
We can complain that HR doesn’t get it and that they never will. Or, we can choose to work with HR, partner up with them, even, and help to make HR’s marketing communications better.
We can complain to our colleagues that the coffee at the SpringHill Suites is dreck, the worst coffee served to hotel customers on the planet. Or, we can voice a suggestion to the front desk person about an alternate coffee they might serve some day, who passes this along to their manager, and on and on up the Marriott chain of command until the person who makes the coffee decision for all Springhill Suites decides that it’s time to make their coffee better. That that one decision has the impact on thousands and thousands of their discerning customers each day: how they start their day, how they think about their day, and how it powers them through the day. And if they don’t change it, we’ll simply keep going to Starbucks where they know how to treat people in the third home.
We can complain that our company lacks talent in a certain area, say, good writing for SEO. Or, we can take a look around our company, dig a little deeper, ask questions, get a little more curious about our colleagues and see who might desire to take on the task at getting better at writing for SEO. Who knows? We may unearth some dormant talent. We won’t know until we get more curious about our colleagues and what they want to do and where they desire to go.
We can complain that the customer or prospect doesn’t get it, and will never buy from us. Or, we can empathize with the prospect, understand his needs, figure out where he is coming from, find out what motivates him, understand his problems a little better, see what he considers big wins and horrendous losses, and understand what scares him the most.
We can complain that Amazon is getting too big, too sprawling, that they’re invading our marketplace, that they’re stealing our customers and reselling our products, that they’re just too Everywhere. Or, we can learn from Amazon as a formidable player in nearly every market, dig deeper into them and analyze their behaviors, learn best practices from the best, and continue to experiment each day as Jeff Bezos does.
We can complain that we’re too busy, buried in work, snowed in under a mountain of tasks to be completed. Or, we can ask for help. We can delegate certain activities. We can learn to do less by cutting out the nonessential and thus freeing up our time for new discoveries.
Unfortunately, the default human behavior is to simply vocalize our complaint to others and not do anything about it, just like the weather in Omaha.
The best way to complain — by far — is to get after making things better. It is the essence of good leadership.