Language makes a big difference. Think of the number of times you have heard the comment, "that is not how we've done it." Maybe you have said it yourself. Whenever these words are spoken, it is an indication that you are living in the past. And that we are held captive by our past way of doing something.
It is a trap and a bad one. There is an adage that is very true. "If you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got." This is the reason that so many strategies keep yielding the same or diminishing results even as the world around us has changed. But our language of "how we've done it in the past." keeps us from looking at new ways and possibilities.
Language sets an organization's culture. It also reveals an individual's bias and where they have locked themselves into a particular paradigm. Leaders should speak a different language and move the conversation from "That is how we've always done it to "How do we want to do it today?"
Think about it. How we have done anything in the past is irrelevant in the present if there is a new and better way of moving forward. You might ask the question and still decide to follow what you have done in the past, but at least the question has been asked. More likely, if you ask the question, "How do we want to do it today?" we will come up with a new answer because times have changed, the needs have changed, the environment has changed, or there is simply a better way of doing what needs to be done.
When I am working with churches to refresh their governance and bylaws, for instance, there is often pushback because it is not the way we have operated in the past. So my question to the group is this. What would it look like if you were designing your governance paradigm today? That changes the conversation from what we have done in the past to what we want to do today. And usually, the answer is very different.
If you lead, think about the language you hear around you and the language you use. You can literally change the conversation if you choose a different language.