You’ve recently moved into a leadership role in a new sales team. Things have changed in the company. There’s a lot of whining and complaining in the team you’re now trying to lead.

Someone comes up to you and starts sharing their views on the current situation in a negative way… now is the time to ask them one simple question that will stop them in their tracks, “What do you suggest?”. Remember, it’s about how you ask the question.

Someone is saying something to you about their issues with the current changes. You wait till they have finished, and then you say, “I hear you, so what are you suggesting?”. You’ve just acknowledged them, but you’re also turning their thought process around into a more proactive mindset.

Pro-tip: make sure you pause after asking this question and politely stay silent, waiting for the answer.

Two things could happen. One is, they provide a solution for a way forward. Perfect. Repeat the suggestion to show you have listened to them. If other team members are around, invite them into the conversation, asking them what needs to be done to implement the solution.

The second thing that could happen is they have no way forward to offer you. You have remained silent for a reasonable period to allow ideas, but nothing happens. Then we leave it at that and say, “Thank you for sharing your views”.

There was a study that hypothesised the people who complain are probably the people that care most about their teams or companies. I would caveat with one note that if those people are high performing and they are complaining about something, you should take time to listen to their suggestion and take on board what they are saying.

If the complaint is coming from a not so high performing team member, I will apply the same method but give it a different weight. Make sure that everyone in your team is heard because good ideas can come from anywhere and anyone.

I learned this method when I was facilitating executive workshops. Everyone is vocal; everyone has an opinion; everyone is assessing the situation and presenting their views. While it is a great situation to be in, managing it is the tricky part. That was when I was challenged. I realised I needed a method. So this one simple question of politely asking, “What do you suggest?” is the key. You will be able to manage the room, the space and the conversation to get something practical and positive out of the interaction.

As an executive that is leading a large team, you are dealing with different personalities. Each one of these personalities brings something to our team, to your company. Knowing how to lead your teams and move them forward is a muscle that gets stronger over time.

If you’re interested in transformation and looking for best practices to gradually change your ways of working, and the culture of your sales team, I have created a course which is a simplified version of what top-tier consulting firms are presenting to their clients. Explore the program here 60-min exec course.

If you know a team that experiences this share this video with them. We learn best when we receive something from those we know. It is much more useful than going to a course, reading a book or sitting in front of an instructor telling us what to do.