Every year, since I was 12, my family has taken a beach vacation. Most of those years, we have gone to the same place – Bethany Beach, Delaware. It’s familiar, easy for us to get to from Pittsburgh, Washington DC and Allentown, and we know we can find homes to accommodate our growing family. This year, there will be 21 people staying in two adjacent houses, sharing meals and family fun in our favorite place to be – together! We have tried other locations, but none seem to work. They are too far to drive or too crowded. We can’t find a house with a pool or close enough to the water. We always find a reason (or 2) to head back to our most favorite and most familiar vacation spot.
Emphasis on the familiar. I’ve been thinking a lot about that recently. How much of what we do every day is done because it’s what we’ve always done? How many choices do we make, because the outcomes are familiar? For a family vacation, it probably doesn’t matter too much. For the rest of life, it may not be such a good idea.
It has been said that “This is how we’ve always done it” is the most expensive 7-word sentence in business. And, even if we don’t say them out loud, those words often guide our decision making and leadership. We shut down or tune out suggestions for improvement. In our subconscious, or even conscious mind, no change is good change.
As business owners, managers and leaders, how do we work to overcome this attitude? We know that the only constant in our world is change, but we are reluctant to act on that knowledge. We don’t want to rock the boat.
First, we must acknowledge our own beliefs and actions. Do we embrace change or fight it? Are we instigators or do we hold the reins too tightly? Once we evaluate ourselves, we can begin to help ourselves make sure that what we’ve always done makes sense now.
Second, we should look at the organizational culture we’ve created. Are our employees comfortable bringing new ideas to the table? Do they feel like we resist or embrace their efforts to contribute? Being open to new ideas is an essential tool for improving employee engagement, in addition to ensuring the future growth of your company.
The long-term success of your organization depends on consistent reinvention. Our job as leaders is to step out of our comfort zones. “Status quo management” doesn’t work in an ever-changing world. The place to start is at the top, recognizing our own preferences, then seeking new ideas from the people we’ve hired.