How to Respond When You Hear “But We Have Always Done It This Way”



I own this button I received from Stephen Wright who is a Past District Deputy Grand Master and used it when he was a member of the Masonic Education Committee for the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma as a reward for creative thinking.

One of my favorite quotations which is frequently attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson but actually came from a lady named Muriel Strode, is this; “I will not follow where the path may lead, but I will go where there is no path and I will leave a trail.”

The quote defines what a leader does; takes people and their organization where they may have not been before. It also fits right in with the thinking behind Steve’s button that a leader should not be constrained by what has been done in the past, especially if it has not been effective or is not consistent with the organization’s vision.

When a leader envisions a path for an organization it many times requires that he spend a considerable amount to time convincing people that this unknown path will lead to somewhere positive and the sacrifice and hard work to get there will be worth the effort. However, in doing so he should be careful not to offend the “But we’ve always done it this way people.”

Establishing a positive relationship with those who may resist change is necessary for achieving buy-in for a vision.

Here are some thoughts on how to approach these people and get their buy-in for the changes you are proposing.

 Indicate to them you have some ideas, you would like their opinion, and ask if they would be willing to help you.

  • When you meet with them, begin your conversation by saying something like this; “I would like to know how we decided to _____________ (insert the area of change for which you have ideas)
  • Listen to them. Ask questions. Find areas of agreement. Look for ways that your ideas improve on long-established practices instead of advocating completely abandoning them.
  • Describe your ideas and explain why you believe they will benefit the organization.
  • Be careful not to criticize the way things have been done in the past because it may be perceived as telling the person that they have been doing it all wrong.
  • Ask the person if they have thoughts which would improve on your ideas and if they do, discuss with them how they might be a part of your plan.
  • Understand when advocating change it will occur slowly. So don’t try for complete buy-in all at once.
  • Ask for permission to consult with them again as you continue to develop your plan.

So the statement, “But we’ve always done it this way,” should be looked at as an opportunity for dialogue, education, and collaboration rather than an announcement that a person is not open to change.

If the person is approached properly it can lead to a better relationship and hopefully lead to an ally for your plan to effect change.


Have a Great Masonic Day!


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