Portrait of a Squeaky Wheel

by Dan Rockwell

Squeaky wheels suck the life out of leaders, teams, and organizations while they claim the high ground for themselves.

Squeaky wheels have aspiration for others and exemption for themselves.

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Portrait of a squeaky wheel:

#1. Squeaky wheels disapprove of others and complain about the present. But complaints turn to excuses when you ask, “What would YOU like to do about that?”

Squeaky wheels hide behind the veil of aspiration.

#2. Squeaky wheels complain about a disappointing present and explain a glorious future for OTHERS to build.

Squeaky wheels spend most of their think-time worried about others.

It’s safe to complain about the present while explaining the things OTHERS should do.

Aspiration for OTHERS – while sitting on the sidelines – is self-affirming camouflage.

#3. Squeaky wheels insult those doing the work.

#4. Squeaky wheels see no wrong in themselves.

Time with squeaky wheels:

I’ve been asked on more than one occasion, “How much time should I spend with squeaky wheels?” My reply is, “Probably not as much as you are now.”

Squeaky wheels are evil distractions.

Spend less time with squeaky wheels and more time with those who are making things better.

Daniel Kahneman said, “Nothing is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it.” When a squeaky wheel brings a concern, it becomes the star of the show.

If you spend your think-time with squeaky wheels, all you see are problems.

Squeaky wheels choke progress. Drucker wisely said, “Results are obtained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems. All one can hope to get by solving a problem is to restore normality.”

Question for squeaky wheels:

What opportunity would YOU like to seize?


The next time you spend time with a squeaky wheel, call a few high performers and thank them for their work.

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