As you interact with people, you likely recognize some people as very quiet. Meanwhile, others are vocal Some of these people may express their opinion whether you want it or not. And, others will be insistent that the conversation and focus is on them and only on them. These people are squeaky wheels who want to determine for you where you put your focus and energy.
Different Shapes and Sizes
Squeaky wheels come in many different forms. Sometimes the one demanding attention is the boastful star employee. Other times the overly dramatic child demands 100% of your attention. At other times, it is a small handful of customers who demand everything be done their way. Squeaky wheels can also be political activists or the news media.
Desire to Placate the Squeaky Wheel
It is understandable to want to placate the squeaky wheel. Most people want to fix what is wrong or support those who are in need. However, often people are driven to focus their energy toward the squeaky wheel for two more personal reasons. First, and simplest, they simply desire peace and quiet. The second reason is that they want to be seen as taking action on the situation.
In the second scenario, often the person reacts and takes a stab at doing something very quickly to address the situation. This action is any action that appears to address the situation. However, it is typically an action taken without thoroughly thinking through the situation, the true causes of the situation, or the consequences of the action being taken.
For example, a CEO may commit in a meeting with a large client to making a change that the client is advocating be made. However, often that CEO hasn’t taken time to understand the problem that the client is attempting to solve. Likewise, often they do not understand enough about the details of their product to know the effort, cost of such a change, and impact to other customers. In the long run, the requested change may not solve the customer’s problem. However, they are the hero(ine) in the moment.
Real solutions require much more effort than solutions decided in the spur of the moment. It is critical to search for the underlying problem instead of acting in the moment or simply giving the squeaky wheel what they are demanding. Without taking time to search for the underlying problem, the likelihood of a “solution” actually solving the problem is low. In some cases, the solution may actually worsen the problem.
You can be more successful when you take time to investigate the issue at hand. Looking deeply at issues and understanding true cause and effect can lead to a more complete understanding of the underlying problems. By understanding these problems, you can create real, lasting solutions.
That said, at times, it can be a struggle to hold out for a real solution because the squeaky wheel often ratchets up their pressure to meet their demands. However, it is critical not to simply give in to get the squeaky wheel to quiet down. Doing so, can cost time, money, and even your way of life. And, to what benefit? If you take this path, in the future, you will likely be right back where you are today doing it all over again.
Missing The Important
An often-overlooked aspect of listening only to the squeaky wheel is what you are missing. If you just listen to one child, what do you miss with other children? How does it affect your relationship with them? Similar questions can be said about your quiet clients, friends, constituents, members of your congregation, and members of society in general. If you only listen to those that squeak, what are you missing?
Things you may be missing are as diverse as our population. You may miss developing an employee with great potential, you may miss that a friend or child is struggling with drugs or alcohol, you may miss signs of mental health issues, and you may miss the desires of the majority. By not listening to the broader community, it is almost guaranteed that you are missing a part of the picture.
All the Voices
Thus, it is imperative to focus your energy on listening to all the voices. It is important to list to the child who is experiencing many issues, but it cannot be at the cost of ignoring your other children. Likewise, you cannot listen only a select few employees, ignoring all others.
The key here is to really listen. It is important to explore and get to the bottom of the issue. After understanding, consider options, get input, and take thoughtful action. It is only through thoughtful action that addresses real issues that effective change can be made!