Louie is such a creature of habit. He sleeps until I awake, then he jumps on the bed when I call him for morning snuggles, after which he heads down to the kitchen for his breakfast, back up stairs to watch out the window, then goes on a walk after I’ve showered and dressed, (this is all before 7a.m.). His days are mixed with whatever my schedule includes. Sometimes that means long walks, a visit to the park, or visits with the grandpups (Evi and Mea). Other times are spent in his cozy crate (whether I’m home working or out) and an afternoon walk with Sully. He has dinner, then an evening walk and play time, and he’s off to bed at 8:30 p.m.…no matter what is going on in my home.
I’ll change our walking pattern and even then he will stand at the crossroad and wait to see what direction I’ll go in and then happily trots off in that direction. His habits make him feel comfortable. And given his past, I am happy to accommodate him.
I have to laugh when I watch his quirky little ways. I am reminded of a story I heard long ago from Zig Zigler. A young bride was cooking dinner for her husband. He watched her carefully season the roast and then proceed to cut off one end, and then the other end. He asked his wife why she cut off the ends of the roast. She replied that her mother had always done it that way and that was reason enough for her. Since the wife’s mother was visiting, they asked her why she always cut off the end of the roast. Mother replied that this was the way her mother did it. Mother, daughter and son-in-law then decided to call grandmother and solve this three-generation mystery. Grandmother promptly replied that she cut the end of the roast because her roaster was too small to cook it in one piece.
We do things a certain way because we’ve always done them that way and, quite honestly, we’re comfortable with that. But is that always the best way? Not necessarily. Regardless of who originally penned this saying, whether Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, or perhaps Mark Twain, these words still ring true today: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.” Many work environments today are stuck in the “We’ve always done it that way,” syndrome with no end in sight.
History and tradition are necessary for a rich working environment where people learn how the business started and how it has grown. And many processes are in place because of the hours put into finding just the right workflow. However, many ideas are tossed to the wayside because a leader or leaders cannot see that though something might have worked in the past, there are possibilities to make a change for the better going forward. Even worse, sometimes our prejudices are based on “We’ve always [voted, practiced, treated people] that way” in the past and we’re not self aware enough to break out of that thinking.
The key to breaking through this barrier is TRUST! When I challenge Louie to do things a different way, he trusts me enough to comply. He may look at me as if to say, “Are you sure?” or “Is this the way, really?” But he carries on because he trusts me.
If leaders are secure in their roles and they exude trust with their team and vice versa, the culture breeds openness and spontaneity of new ideas. The next time there’s even a hint of We’ve Always Done It This Way (WADITW), carefully consider the following steps:
- STOP before saying another word and take a deep breath!
- ASK a question that begins with, “What if…”
- LEADER, remain quiet and listen.
- BRAINSTORM, write down all the ideas on a white board. Give people ample time to ponder and discuss.
- REVIEW all possibilities and decide on a path of growth together. You may decide the way you’ve done it IS the best way at this point, but at least you’ll have more buy in.
- ACCOUNTABILITY is the key to keeping trust alive and follow through on getting things done.
I know this takes time and effort, but the loss of creativity and teamwork has a much greater cost on productivity, efficiency and profitability for the organization as a whole. Breaking through the barrier of WADITW is freeing and breeds a culture of trust, thereby increasing engagement.
While Louie likes his comfortable habits, he also exudes excitement when I change things up for him. He can sense my enthusiasm, and he trusts that whatever adventure I am willing to go on, will be good for him.