“That’s the way we do things around here….”

Liz Guthridge Posted by Liz Guthridge, Managing Director, Connect Consulting Group.

Liz Guthridge is a coach, consultant and facilitator who helps leaders turn their blue-sky ideas into greener-pasture actions. She uses applied neuroscience, behavior design and mindful communications. 


“That’s the way we do things around here….”

Want to play with fire?

Keep telling others and yourself: “That’s the way we do things around here….”

Reliance on past practices can be an incendiary way to approach work these days. That’s because you can rub your colleagues the wrong way, especially if you’re trying to influence them to take action, cause combustion and miss making your goals.

Your colleagues may perceive you to:

  • Be lazy. You’re doing what’s easy for you, not taking into consideration what’s easy for others.
  • Be wasteful. You’re taking actions that don’t protect the environment.
  • Lack empathy. You don’t think about how others work and their preferred way of doing things.

For example, consider the statewide professional organization that wants to recruit millennials to attend its conferences and even better, encourage them to join and become members of the organization.

Instead of attracting new recruits, the organization is probably repelling them with these “safe, tried and true” tactics:

  • Focus on past. The conference theme is “Reflect on the past and gaze at the future,” which is radically different from the national organization’s commitment to “Let’s make the future.”
  • Over-reliance on email. To sign-up for the conference, individuals have to print out an application form they receive via email or can access on the website, complete it and mail it in—yes, via snail mail.
  • Payment by check only. To pay for the conference, individuals have to write a check and enclose it with their application that they mail in.

Even I, a baby boomer, was shocked by this old-fashioned, multi-step, resource-intensive process. Is it 2015 or 1985?

Being tied to the past also can sabotage your efforts when technical topics are involved. The “curse of knowledge” can stand between the experts and the users.

Basically, those with the curse are so familiar with their subject matter that they have lost the ability and the empathy to explain the topic clearly and succinctly to others. For problems associated with this curse, check out

Recently, another organization discovered that very few individuals understood its pilot incentive program that had just become available to them. No surprise when you looked at the materials describing the program. The presentation looked as if it were a lecture on compensation 201 designed for other compensation experts.

For problems associated with this curse, check out Help the economy; improve your communications!

These days, it’s not enough to do things just the way you like to. Others may object.

And you can’t fight fire with fire as most times people have other options. Even at work, they’ll ignore your requests, fulfill them badly or complain.

Instead, step back and put yourself into the shoes of your customers or whoever you’re trying to influence. Do they really care how you’ve been doing things? Or are they more willing to take action in a way that’s convenient, comfortable and customary to them?

Something’s gotta give…..