Published: 1 year ago

“We’ve Never Done It That Way Before.”

If you haven’t heard it yet, you will.

Leaders face the tension of protecting the core values of the organization while progressing in new areas of innovation. And sometimes that progression can trigger the “We’ve never done it that way before” syndrome:

  • We’ve never been scheduled to serve…we just sort of show up when we feel like it.
  • We’ve never had to go through training. How much do you need to know for this job, anyway?
  • We’ve never been asked to attend one, serve one. Can’t I just do my thing for five minutes and head into the service?
  • We’ve never had so many guidelines for greeting people. What…you don’t think we know how to look someone in the eye and say hello?

So how do you deal with the “We’ve never done it that way before” syndrome? I think there are at least six ways:

Identify the “we.” We sounds intimidating until you realize that we is I. Or me and my wife. Or me and a few disgruntled people who used to attend in the 90s but they already got mad and left anyway. Determine which pronoun we’re actually using.

Rally your stakeholders. Every ministry has them: the people who – for some reason – love you, love what you’ve asked them to do, or love the vision you’ve painted. Ask for their opinion on how to tackle the “WNDITWB” pushback. Deploy them to have sensitive conversations with people that they’ve known longer than you. Lean on their wisdom and longevity to discover your next step.

Ask for input from the opposition. “How could we do this better?” “What would make you feel more comfortable about this decision?” “What are some problems that you’ve identified that we could try to solve together?”

Re-share and re-cast the vision. People will rarely care about what you’re asking them to do until they know why you’re asking them to do it. Like a gentle shepherd, lead them into the new pasture with kindness, but also by having a clear picture in your own mind of where you’re headed.

Look for the bright spots. In Switch, Chip and Dan Heath observe that we “love to contemplate and analyze, and, making matters worse, [our] analysis is almost always directed at problems rather than at bright spots…too much analysis can doom the effort.”

Allow people to make a gracious exit. Anytime you’re trying to enact change, you must do so with the realization that not everyone signed on for this. Because of that, not everyone needs to remain a part of the team. Encourage people to give it a shot, but six months down the road if it’s not working out, help them find a new area of service.

How do you fight the “We’ve never done it that way” syndrome?


Want to discover more?

We dig deep to solve the “We’ve never done it that way” issue and many more in our One-Day Workshops on Guest Services, Volunteer Culture, and After the First Visit (assimilation).If you lead vols, need vols, or are a vol, you’ll benefit. Get more information and RSVP today!


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