This Season, Don’t Fall Back On The 'Old Reliables'

Challenging the reticent and pushing for actionable insight from naysayers can enliven a stagnant feedback loop and push company culture forward.


Autumn means returning to routine. But should it?

I love the changing seasons, and autumn is one of my favorites. The air chills, the leaves start to put on their show of colors, the kids return to school, and a comforting routine takes over. This got me thinking about the pros and cons of taking comfort in our routines — at home and the office.

On the one hand, my workplace routine is like putting on a cozy sweater. It’s easy, familiar, and safe. On the other hand, if I don’t change my routine and push to think outside the box, then I’m limiting my growth potential. My end-result becomes predictable.

I don’t mind leveraging the power of routines, but I don’t want to be seen as predictable.

Company culture is another area that can benefit from a new, even unpredictable, approach. As I think about how we assess, tweak, and improve our culture, I question whether we rely on our routines too much when we decide whom to ask for input and assistance. In my experience, we look too much to those who are extroverted and outspoken — those who are willing to speak up and share their opinions.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but let me push you out of your routine. Why not go to the team members who are the quiet ones, the ones who don’t ask for attention? These team members are easily overlooked but have a huge impact on culture.

I also encourage you to root out the contrarians. We’re naturally attracted to those who share our beliefs, ideals, and outlook, which means we’re more likely to ask for input from team members who will support our decisions and agree with our tactics.

Everyone likes validation. It’s human nature to like someone to agree with us. It’s uncomfortable to ask for input from naysayers, and it’s easy to discount the opinions of the Negative Nelly. But I encourage you to overtly invite them into the cultural conversation. And when they highlight a challenge in your company culture, ask them to say more. Don’t let them off the hook with just dropping their bomb — push them out of their routine. Urge them to examine the challenge more deeply and, here’s the kicker, offer a viable solution.



When we think of inclusion, we usually focus on physical characteristics. But this fall planning season, broaden your definition of inclusion to comprise personality, too. If our culture committees and initiatives aren’t fully inclusive of all kinds of thinkers, they won’t really be effective. If we consistently seek the counsel of those who agree with us, we’re not really getting counsel.

The only thing in life that is constant is change. To embrace this, I plan to push myself out of my routine this autumn and build dialogues, take counsel, and ask for input from those I haven’t traditionally sought out. I’m going to strive for less routine and more inclusion in hopes of building a stronger, more resilient work family.

It’s Time For Tough Questions

Asking tough questions helps the credit union movement flourish. Make Callahan’s Tough Questions commentary on a regular stop for insight on thinking differently about the movement and framing strategies for success.

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Sept. 24, 2018


  • So you want to seek out the opinions of contrarians, but then you want to push them out of their routine, make them examine the challenge more deeply, and make them offer a viable solution? It seems to me that EVERYONE should be exploring the challenge more deeply, and EVERYONE should be responsible for brainstorming effective solutions. Perhaps you didn't mean it this way, and perhaps I'm just reading into what you wrote, but I can easily see your exercise as written turning into a case of example-making. As in, these contrarians disagree with the way we do things so let's offer them a public forum, but at the same time make an example out of their nonconformity (but pushing THEM rather than EVERYONE to examine the issue more deeply and offer a solution). Who would ever offer up their opinion again?
  • Dan, thanks for your comment. The point I was trying to make is to actively widen your feedback circle. We are creatures of habit and tend to lean on the same people (or types of people) for feedback and input and this can lead us to missing input from our diverse team. I agree the rules of engagement are the same for everyone, you come with a challenge - you help create the solution.
    Katy Slater