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5 Ways to Turn Gripes into Growth

Updated: Jan 3, 2019


What seems like a complaint is really a ripe opportunity for a professional development conversation.

Ever uttered these words?

  1. “If I ran this company, I would…”

  2. “I could do that job.”

  3. “What does he/she have that I don’t have?”

  4. This makes no sense!”

  5. “No one understands my comedic genius!”

Okay, that last one is what my youngest son used to say whenever we didn’t laugh at his jokes. The professional version may be something like: “No one appreciates what I can do” or “I never get a chance to show my real talent/strengths/skills.”

If you’ve ever said at least one of these statements over the course of your career, it should come as no surprise that your direct reports have likely uttered similar phrases.


Here’s the good news: Exploring such statements with them can open the door for rich, authentic discussions around their interests, desires and ideas. During your next 10:10s or development conversations, try turning these provocative gems into “thought prompters” and use them as a foundation for creative brainstorming around development opportunities.


Here's how:

  1. “If I ran this company (or department), I would…”: Encourage them to finish the sentence with what they’d do differently, then discuss ways to further develop those ideas (e.g., small project team, hack-a-thon, flash hive, design thinking exercise, etc.).

  2. “I could do your job!”: Explore how they can experience “a day in the life (yours).” Consider job shadowing (with debriefs after meetings), reverse mentoring on a problem or situation you would normally solve yourself, or a job mini-swap – where you empower them to “take over” for a few hours with limited supervision – while you to get back in the trenches for a few hours yourself.

  3. “What does ____ have that I don’t have?”: A colleague’s promotion or special assignment opens the door for a conversation around any skills gaps and how to fill them. And while you may not be able to give plum assignments to everyone, brainstorm what may work for them.

  4. “I never get a chance to___.”: What have they been aching to try? How could they demonstrate untapped skills – or practice new ones – in a way that supports company, department and/or team priorities and goals?

  5. This makes no sense!”: Similar to the first statement, open a conversation around what would make sense? What part could they play in the solution? Eliminate the griping by encouraging them to offer potential solutions, along with how they’ll vet the ideas and drive or support implementation of the best option.

But wait! There’s more! Once your direct reports get to experience new opportunities as a result of these conversations, you may soon hear them say this little gem: “I can’t believe they let me do this!”


About the Author: For over 20 years, Marcelle has honed her craft as certified leadership coach and experiential development strategist within diverse Fortune 100 companies and the defense industry, coaching and advising everyone from C-Suite executives and leadership teams, to front-line managers and new hires. She’s masterful at enhancing existing talent development processes by infusing “job mixology” -- the ideal blend of job-related experiences, certified coaching and creative strategies needed to ensure development efforts fuel lasting results. Contact her at: marcelle@jobmixology.com.


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