Several years ago, I was working with a key executive who had been in his position for many years. We were discussing the way things were done in his department and every time I asked him the reason why they did something a particular way, his answer was “because that’s the way we’ve always done it”.  Over time, this answer became a private joke between the two of us as we worked together to modernize his department.

One of my favorite examples of this habit is the seat belt announcement on airplanes.  Once, I heard a flight attendant put it this way “for those of you who have never been in a car…” Clearly at least this one flight attendant shared the same humor as my key executive friend and me.  And yet, this announcement continues on every airline.

Perhaps it is time for someone (FAA, Airlines?) to pause and ask, “What should our safety message be?” And, for each of us to ask,  has “that’s the way we have always done it” become a leadership habit at my company?

If so, is it time for to pause and begin asking:

  • Why are we doing “that” this way?
  • What is the goal of doing “that”?
  • Is doing it “this way” getting you the results you want?

Elisa K. Spain

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