“The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Whenever my mother said that to me, it meant “Stand up for yourself! Speak up! Don’t let the world run you over!”
And as usual, she was right.
But there’s another kind of squeak that really shouldn’t get a bit of attention. It still does, but it really shouldn’t. It’s the squeak-squeak-squeak of excuses and complaints.
When someone tells you why they didn’t meet their goals, why they missed the meeting, why their productivity is down for the third decade running, THAT’S a squeak worth ignoring. But too often we rush in with the grease, assuring the squeaker that it’s okay, that everybody has those decades, blah bah blah. In the process, we enable the next squeak, and the next. Worse than that, we’ve pretty much GUARANTEED it. Hey, why stop squeaking if it brings all that yummy attention?
Yes, it’s true—everybody whines once in a while. It’s part of being human. But when someone is a serial whiner and a compulsive excuse-maker, it’s usually an indication that the person has not aligned his or her personal plan with the company’s interests and is busily boohooing about how uncomfortable that is.
If someone is a professional and doesn’t have a quarterly plan they’ve developed with specific numbered goals and deadlines for initiatives, all tied into the organization’s objectives, it’s time to get out the jack and change that tire. Hard to hear but true. Companies don’t have time to babysit and spoon-feed during difficult times.
There’s another kind of squeak, though—one that deserves all the attention you can give it. It doesn’t come after the fact (“I didn’t meet the deadline because…”) but BEFORE things go wrong.
Let’s call it “positive squeaking.”
Positive squeaking happens when a team member has her eye on the ball so well that she notices a project going off the rails BEFORE it’s too late—and squeaks her team, herself, even her boss back onto the rails in the interest of the objective.
Positive squeaking calls it tight, insists on deadlines, rejects excuses. Positive squeaking doesn’t say, “It’s not my fault—I sent an email last week and never heard back.” It picks up the phone. It walks down the hall and knocks on office doors until it gets answers. Heck, it camps out on doorsteps. It won’t take silence for an answer.
Annoying? Sure it is. All squeaks are. That’s why they get the grease. But a squeak that’s insisting on the objective and refusing to take excuses—well, that’s a squeak well worth greasing.