The Culture Lab
How to Overcome a Can’t-Do Attitude in Your Team
Counterintuitive advice on how to break dysfunctional patterns and re-write the cultural algorithms that stall your progress.
If you’ve ever tried to build something awesome with a group of people, chances are you’ve also had the following experience at some point:
You rush to build your product, go to market, grow further and faster, overcome some seemingly insurmountable challenge. Whatever it is — you know in your heart of hearts that you can do it.
But suddenly… you bump against a barrier you didn’t anticipate.
Your team tells you:
“This can’t be done.”
When it happens for the first time, it can stop you in your tracks and knock the wind out of you.
“Of course it can be done!” — you want to scream. But instead, you choose to be civil. You convince, cajole and plead. When that doesn’t work, you do what you are best at — you find the solution yourself. Then, you push the team even harder to implement it.
Reenact this scenario on a few more occasions, and suddenly you find yourself trapped in an infuriating pattern:
You push. They push back. So you push harder still.
And it starts driving you crazy!
How you might be enabling behaviors that drive you nuts
Patterns like the one above are very common in the workplace. I call them cultural algorithms.
When you think of an algorithm, you are probably envisioning a computer. But algorithms are much older than computers, and our daily lives have been full of them for centuries.
An algorithm is basically a sequence of steps that we follow. When you cook a dish from a recipe, you’re following an algorithm. When you separate your clothes into colors and whites before washing them, you follow an algorithm. When people push back when you push — and when you push harder when they push back — you follow an algorithm.