Carved in Butter, Not Stone
Ever slammed into a brick wall, then picked yourself up and thrown yourself against the same wall again for good measure? Didn’t think so. But that’s what it feels like when you slam into the wall of resistance called “we’ve always done it this way.” Mindsets and cultures built on years of “doing it that way” can be brutal. Rules set in stone make for rigid thinking and are roadblocks for innovation. So how do you make way for the new?
The easiest (and most tempting) thing is to bulldoze the wall. Get rid of the fossils who want to control everything and resist change with strength, tenacity and determination. Though sometimes these people can be axed, more often than not, you have to work with them. This can prove to be an exercise in patience, but the reality is that antiques have value too. If you can quit butting heads long enough and listen to these people, they no doubt have wisdom and insight that can be significant as you move forward.
Here’s three things that have worked for me:
1) Invite courageous communication. Re-establish the vision of the organization and make it a point to find touchstones of agreement.
2) Negotiate, communicate (seen this word before?!) and concede. At least on some things. You can’t change everything overnight. Celebrate small victories. Incremental progress is still progress.
3) Give respect and you will get respect. I wrote recently about the power of honoring another and you can make more headway with this principle than with brute strength any day. Be sure to focus on what these people are contributing that’s good and put the magnifying glass on it.
It is a huge help to not take it personally when you face the resistance of those who have a mission to “hold the fort.” Yeah, I know it’s hard. What you’re up against is not a personality, but an ancient stronghold. In days of old, when a small team wanted to storm a large castle, they had to rely on strategy and wits rather than brute strength to gain access. Plan, strategize and persevere. And let it be a lesson to us to stay youthful and fresh in our thinking, no matter how many years we’ve seen.
The only thing that should be carved in stone is your epitaph.