Want to know what the eight most expensive words in business are?


They might surprise you. I suspect you’ve heard them often, perhaps you’ve even uttered them yourself. They are:


“But we have always done it this way.”

It’s a phrase guaranteed to get my amygdala firing, and also one guaranteed to keep your workplace in the dark ages.

Whilst historical context is absolutely important, remaining fixed on something just because it’s the way we’ve always done it is a risk.


Because the world around us is changing rapidly.

The global economy shifts and tilts and impacts workplaces – private and public.

Societal expectations have radically changed over the past few decades and what are workplaces comprised of? Yes, members of society. Our customers and other stakeholders are also members of society.

The digital revolution has transformed the way we do business and life… and our new talent pools, the generations coming up have a new view of work and what they expect from it.

We also have much more evidence thanks to expanding research into many areas of our work and life. This informs new practices, new reforms, regulations and legislation.

The way we have always done things may still be the right way.
But we can’t make that assumption when so much else around us has shifted.

We need to constantly ask ourselves:

Is there another way? Is there a better way?

We need to release attachment to the past ways.

When I was a child some 40+ years ago the threat of my father’s belt was always present. As the perfect child (naturally) I never experienced the feel of this across my toosh but the threat was always there.

In contrast, when I raised my own children – and we still laugh about this now – my very thinly veiled threat was the wooden spoon. Why we laugh about it is that my adorable but bonkers children knew quite well I would never use it and the anguish on my face whilst making those veiled threats was quite clear for them to see. I’m quite sure I did give a tap here and there – but a flea bite would have hurt more.

Most recently I saw a snippet of a television program hinting at the fact smacking your children may become illegal.

Regardless of what you think about any of those scenarios (and it’s a controversial topic without a doubt) the point I am illustrating is how things change.

And I can see parallels with this example and leadership.

If we look back a few decades command and control style – fear based – leadership was the norm.

It still exists in many workplaces. Perhaps not as overtly but the fear-based presence is still there.

Yet a more collaborative and supportive style of leadership has emerged. This style is meeting the needs of contemporary employees.

Refusing to consider new ways of doing things is a significant risk to business.

But how do you handle those pesky 8 words when delivered that instantly shut down any attempts at progress or improvement? With this simple response.

What would happen if we tried it another way?

Have you uttered the 8 most expensive words?

If you’re struggling to let go of something and try another way, share the historical context. Share why something was done the way it was but reframe your defensiveness into curiosity and join in the exploration to see if in fact there is another way. A better way.

Looking at new ways is no reflection on you because when you came up with that old way, in that time, in that context, it was possibly the best way.

But things change. And perhaps now there’s another way. A better way.
Join in with curiosity and explore that.

Are you trying to drive change and being met with those 8 most expensive words?

Be respectful of the historical context.

Appreciate that and the people who designed systems, and processes previously.

Express curiosity and openness and learn why things were designed the way they were. Work with others to redesign, avoid “telling”.

Coach through resistance with phrases such as:

  • What would happen if we tried it another way?
  • What are the opportunities for us if we make this change?
  • What else has changed since this process/thing was established?
  • What other options are there for the way we do this?
  • What might happen if we don’t make this change?

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Change doesn’t have to be scary. It can be uncomfortable but try to sit with that discomfort and embrace the opportunities change brings.

And remember, you’re learning a new range of skills that will help you respond better to the changing world of work.

If you or your workplace needs support working through change reach out for a chat.

Tanya Heaney-Voogt

Director & Principal Consultant
MBA, ICFACC, MAHRI, Dip Mgt, Dip Coaching, Prosci® Certified Change Practitioner
E: tanya@tanyaheaneyvoogt.com

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