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When to do it the way we have always done it
When we discuss effective leadership, we often discuss the problem of “it’s the way we’ve always done it.”
Tradition is familiar. The familiar is comforting. It has a benefit in situations in which people are emotional—it gives them a focus and pattern of behavior to follow when they might otherwise be uncertain.
The funeral of Elizabeth II is on the news in the background as I write this. Funerals are a place in which tradition gives this beneficial focus. People are emotional and feeling cast adrift. It helps many people to have a known pattern of behavior that they can use to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It helps people feel a sense of identity, a connection to all of the people in past eras who also took part, and to feel like they are rooted to something that has staying power.
But traditions can stifle needed change. Traditions can use resources that might be more beneficial in other areas. When coming up against the sentiment that “it’s the way we’ve always done it,” we need to consider if that is STILL the BEST way to do things. We also need to recognize when tradition won’t take us where we need to go. We also need to know that, if we want people to get on board with a new way of doing things, they might need an emotional buy-in—a compelling reason at the motivational level to make the change.
If tradition gives an emotional benefit, people won’t try something new unless the emotional benefit of the new activity holds GREATER appeal.
Keep the traditions when the purpose of the activity is to provide comfort and a framework for people in emotional situations… because traditions can do that. But when the purpose of the activity is to adapt to a changing marketplace, or to grow a next-level workforce, or to build a profitable revenue stream, blindly following tradition will often lead to diminishing returns.