Do You Know the Status Quo?

The status quo has a bad rap, doesn’t it? It’s the butt of jokes. People want to disrupt it. No one wants to be associated with it.

Before we can do any of those things, though, I’d assert we have to first know what it actually is.

A definition of the status quo is “the way things are now.” We stay so busy all the time; our internal and external realities are constantly in flux. I question that we even know what “now” looks like.

In particular, each January, we’re challenged to make resolutions about what we want to change or improve. We build new budgets and operating plans. Within all this activity, which elements of our current realities truly need to shift?

 “Your opinion is your opinion, your perception is your perception–do not confuse them with “facts” or “truth.”

Each of us sees the world uniquely. From our DNA to our life experiences to our moods on any given day, what we see and how we interpret it shapes our view of reality. And research has shown that usually, we only see what we want to see. We look for the information that supports our beliefs.

Thus, it’s too one-sided to rely solely on our own interpretations when we decide the status quo needs to change in our organizations. We risk solving the wrong problem, or only addressing a symptom, not the root cause. It kicks the can down the road, and causes more frustration later when the problem still exists. (Hence the reason for status quo’s bad rap.)

 “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

So, when we decide the status quo needs to change, how do we gut-check ourselves on what actually needs to shift?

Below are some ways to gain perspective. These can be applied creatively across various organizational and leadership challenges:

  1. Ask customers for feedback – they are the reason we’re in business, right? Asking them how things are going is a sure way to find out whether your organization is performing the way you think it is (or want it to be).
  2. Bring in “insultants” – One CEO I met recently says he likes to be “insulted” (respectfully!) by outside experts about what’s working and what’s not in his organization. He knows that when we’re too close to things, we don’t see them clearly.
  3. Borrow the “12th man rule” – a different CEO uses this principle in hiring decisions, adapted from the movie “Twelve Angry Men.” Before making an employment offer, one person on the hiring team acts as the “12th man” and asks: “why shouldn’t we hire this person?” This forces them to look for different data. He said they often find something that was overlooked; this has saved them from bad hires. This approach can be used in lots of different scenarios.
  4. Have a “what was / what is” conversation – I recently facilitated a discussion that helped a leadership team develop a shared view of “what was” and “what is.” There were many “a-ha’s” about how people viewed things differently based on their roles, when they joined the company, and so on. Once we did that, developing a shared future became a snap. (Feel free to ask me about the facilitation technique.)
  5. Seek 360° feedback – you didn’t think I’d leave out the part about discovering how others view us, did you?

So the next time you want to drop-kick the status quo, start first by finding out how others how see what’s going on. Keep digging until you get to the truth of where things are today before deciding what needs to shift for tomorrow.

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