Want different? Be a Squeaky Wheel

You’ve heard that saying, haven’t you? The one that goes, “it’s the squeaky wheel which gets the grease.” It can be said in a not-too-favorable manner, when we refer to others who are whiners and complainers, or those who are the loud and verbal ones, always seeming to crave more attention than what normally is thought of as reasonable to the rest of us.

How about if we get squeaking to be a good, positive thing ”“ more like squeaky clean and crystal clear. Put any other negative connotations aside, and think about adopting wheel squeaking as one of your new attention-grabbing strategies, intended to bring feel-good stories and better ideas to the light of day, getting them to be better seen and heard. Squeak to share an optimistic outlook. Squeak to improve workplace health. Squeak to improve community health.

You see, “It’s the squeaky wheel which gets the grease” also happens to be true way more often than not: It’s a truism you can be taking better advantage of.

Why? Well-greased wheels are those which get the most immediate results.

Fact is, squeaking gets heard

The recession we are in is turning into what I think of as ‘the R word.’ Yes, it is very real, and very distressing. However people are getting very tired of hearing and talking about it. There is a sentiment which pops up in my telephone conversations and coaching sessions with nearly daily frequency, which goes something like this:

“We keep hearing that things are going to get far worse before they get better; how are we supposed to recession-proof our spirit when all we hear on the news and in the media is more doom and gloom? How will we ever get consumer confidence back when our pessimism consistently turns anyone with an extra dollar to spend into a newly-frugal hoarder? There are silver linings; there is some good news about great things which are happening too; why don’t we hear more about those things?”

I think it’s a valid concern. Overbearing amounts of negative news is a real downer, and I prefer having a more positive expectancy of the future too. My question however, is this: Are you speaking up, and making your voice heard, so those who give us “the news and [what we hear] in the media” hear your ‘squeaking’ and give you some grease?

I have yet to meet anyone who is a great mind reader, even when we think that something is “so totally obvious.” Chances are that what you might think of as obvious isn’t squeaking loudly enough for anyone to notice.

And the grease? It’s attention

I must say that I feel for journalists and news reporters; they are just as busy as the rest of us, doing all they can to keep up —and keep afloat. They are in the unfortunate position of playing defense, responding to the loudest squeaks more than having the time and luxury of doing comprehensive, uncover-every-angle investigative reporting. They are getting their labor dollars trimmed too, and traditional newspapers in particular are wondering if they will have any future at all. They respond to the squeaks they hear with greatest frequency, and most of them right now happen to be R-word negatives.

As a blogger, I can empathize with the frustration that comes from rarely hearing from those in your audience you truly wish would speak up for a change: I get tired of deleting all the comments from spammers and trolls hiding behind pen names, yet I make sure I review them carefully to be sure some valid comment from a concerned reader has not gotten lost in the shuffle. Problem is, shared opinions are much more infrequent, whether in agreement or contrary to mine; there are rarely healthy debates, positive suggestions ”“ or even the request for me to report more positive news.

Said another way, I cannot ‘hear’ what you might be thinking, and are not brave enough to speak up and actually say. And if you don’t give me feedback on what you want me to write about, I do my own thing, assuming that what you might want just isn’t that important to you as my agenda is to me.

Attention is paid so the squeaking stops —or to champion it! Then, attention gets shifted to where new squeaking has cropped up somewhere else. If you don’t ‘squeak’ and let me hear from you, you will not get my attention. I’m guessing that all the other people who deliver the news to you are in the same boat I’m in. Quiet non-responsiveness happens here on the blog, it happens in other media, it happens in your workplace, and it happens around your dinner table at home. I’d bet there are a lot of people who would love to hear you speak up; they’d love to reciprocate, and bounce their ideas off you too.

So start squeaking

If you want different in your world, and getting the ‘different’ doesn’t seem to be in your sphere of influence alone, say so. Get the attention of other influencers you want in your corner. Speak up. Use that voice you have, putting it to good use. Share your positive outlook and tell us about your ideas (I know you have them). Get your positive, good-news squeaks to drown out the negatives which come from all the Bad News Bears.

You can team up, and don’t have to go it alone. As some very savvy person observed, “the caveman who invented the wheel was pretty smart, but the one who put four of them together was brilliant.”

Small squeaks are things like private emails and telephone conversations: Small audience, small result. Bigger squeaks commanding much more attention, are things like blog comments and conversations, letters to the editor, and best of all, getting your workplace to adopt community initiatives that are news-worthy. Bigger audience, bigger result.

And then there is the immensely squeaky new forum called social media. If you’ve read this far you are no stranger to the internet, to blogs, and very likely have heard of programs like LinkedIn and Twitter where you can systematically create your own virtual community of like-minded voices, who share your interests and want the same kind of change that you do. Your voice can become exponential, and globally supported.

So tell me, what exactly are you waiting for? What is holding you back?

Let’s talk about it, and get past any obstacles you perceive. Start squeaking, and let me hear from you.

On Thursday: Bring Hawai‘i to the Workplace by ‘Talking Story’

~ Originally published on Say “Alaka‘i” ~
Want different? Be a Squeaky Wheel.


  1. Thadeus says

    I just want to thank you for your positive spirit and presence on the web. It is very true for me (and probably for most media-consumers) that I take in a lot of content without ever discussing it or giving feedback. While at the same time, if I shoot off and e-mail or write a post of my own I am checking every 5 minutes or so to see if a reply/comment has been made. I imagine it is human nature, but by the grace of God I hope to overcome it.
    I enjoy your ideas and hope that in some way it is seeping into the way I interact with my boss and the other employees that I work with and around.
    Please keep up the good work. And I will try to resolve to converse and discuss more of what I consume so that I and the other discussees gain more together.

  2. says

    Thank you so much Thadeus; it is always so wonderful to hear from you, and I greatly appreciate the time you have taken to share your thoughts with me, and with our Talking Story community.