Why “But we’ve always done it that way!” Needs to be Banished from Your Brain

Kristi Birkeland on Jun 9, 2017 3:00:00 AM

Yes. We know. You made it where you are today by doing certain things a certain way, and replicating them again and again. Great job! Now let’s give a shout out to some other businesses who operate in a similar way.

Way to go, Blockbuster!

Nice work, Circuit City!

Congratulations, Sears!

Oh snap.

If you’re one of those “But we’ve always done it that way!” kind of people, it’s time to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and jump off that train. Trust me. The track only goes so far.

No matter what kind of organization you’re running, you cannot afford to assume the current model is sustainable.

And no great leader can assume that replicating processes is what’s going to lead them into the future.

Can you spare some change?

Some people will instantly say yes to this question, but others will involuntarily recoil at the thought, afraid to part with anything for fear of what might happen next.

Some common areas of business fears include:

Hiring additional team members – What if they don’t work out? What if they suck all of our time and resources? What if the rest of the team gets lazy?

Letting go of underperformers – What if they get mad or make a scene? What if they can’t find another job? What if I make someone cry?

Implementing new technologies – What if it doesn’t work? What if my team can’t figure it out? What if something new comes along that’s even better?

Changing strategy and/or direction – What if my team doesn’t buy in? What if our shareholders get upset? What if our customers don’t like it?

Investing in growth – What if we spend a bunch of money and don’t see a huge ROI? What if we don’t grow as fast as projected? What if we overstep our bounds and have to backtrack?

Trying new things in general – What if we’re wrong? What if things don’t go perfectly smoothly? What if people complain or quit?

These may all be valid concerns, but the truth of the matter is, you can literally “What If…” yourself to death.

Here’s the good news: You can also “What If…” yourself back to life.

A new outlook

Let's take a look at the very same issues from a less risk-adverse point of view.

Hiring additional team members – What if we find some people who are super excited about what we’re doing and their energy spreads to the rest of the team? What if our current staff feels less overworked and can actually complete their tasks on a regular basis? What if we start hiring people who share our values and fit perfectly into our culture?

Letting go of underperformers – What if they are secretly relieved to be given permission to move on? What if we helped them understand why they weren’t a good fit and, in doing so, empowered them find something better? Perhaps even within our own organization? What if our productivity and morale shot up once those underperformers were no longer stuck in positions that made them unhappy?

Implementing new technologies – What if it does work? What if our team saves huge amounts of time and frustration? What if something else comes along that has the power to help us even more?

Changing strategy and/or direction – What if my team knows that things aren’t working and is waiting for me to take charge? What if our stakeholders are craving bold leadership? What if we improve our brand and culture and end up with happier employees and a bunch of new customers?

Investing in growth – What if we put our money where our mouth is and prove to our employees that we value them and their hard work? What if we end up growing faster than projected? What if our investment is worth every penny and then some?

Trying new things in general – What if we don’t?

Pretty sure we all know the answer to that one.

Being in business is not for the faint of heart. Staying in business is not for those who are afraid to make difficult decisions or make difficult changes. The next time you feel that old familiar urge to stay the same, put on your adventure glasses and look at things from a fresh point of view.

Or you can curl up in your favorite “But we’ve always done it that way!” snug sack, pop a VHS tape in, and wait for the end of the movie.

 

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Topics: Leadership + Management