Self-Checkout and Herd Mentality
Do you remember when self-checkout became an option at stores like Wal-Mart? It started with just a couple of lanes dedicated to customers scanning their own purchases and eventually got to the point we’re at now with far more self-checkout stations than cashier-led options.
For a while, I saw others’ negative reactions to the new trend. On Facebook, it was common to read, “I’m not a Wal-Mart employee so why am I doing their work?” A quote from the cnn.com article Nobody likes self-checkout. Here’s why it’s everywhere reinforces the distaste for self-checkout options: “From the get go, customers detested them.”
Even with those negative reactions, though, the trend may be here to stay. A few months ago, my favorite grocery store made the change from five cashier-led lanes with no self-checkout option to just one lane with a cashier and eight self-checkout stations.
In my weekly visits to the store, I’ve observed how customers are reacting to the change. Interestingly, even though I sometimes hear grumbling from strangers, the self-checkout lanes are now busier than the lane where the cashier does the work of scanning purchases.
The Trap of ‘It is What It is‘
That grocery store observation mirrors something I see in the work I get to do with leaders: the resigned belief that It is what it is. That’s just how things roll here.
Recently, I was facilitating a session for a group of 12 leaders. Their goal? Eliminate disrespectful communication among their work teams and improve overall workplace culture.
As we discussed the concept of replacing blame with responsibility, people shared examples of how their team members quickly and automatically go to the Land of Blame. My goal in this session was to help the leaders see how they, too, tumble into this easy-to-fall-into trap and then focus the conversation on different practices– positive actions– they can model for their team members. My goal was to help them visualize another, more effective way to get the result they all want and for them to clearly see that it starts with them.
With each question I asked, group members responded with their own detailed version of: It’s just the way things are here. It is what it is. I can’t change my team members.
I agree—we can’t change other people.
Additionally, I believe we can say goodbye to the white-surrender-flag notion that it is what it is.
The Leadership Mindset Needed to Refuse the ‘What is’ Notion
As an individual consumer, you may not have the influence to change the trend of self-checkout lanes. As an individual leader, though, you most certainly do have the opportunity to change and improve ‘what is’. In fact, that’s a vital aspect of your leadership role.
A few questions to get the ball—and your leadership mindset—rolling:
- What is within my control and influence to change and improve this situation?
- What can I learn from this?
- How is this circumstance a gift for me/us?
- What will I commit to do or think when every fiber of my being wants to give up and ride the ‘what is’ train instead?
- If I could wave a magic wand and get my ideal result, what would it look like, sound like, feel like?
Fair warning: the judge who lives in your brain is going to do its best to talk you out of doing the work to answer these questions. That judge will tell you that it’s impossible to accomplish the ideal result you envision. Don’t listen.
Your refusal to go along with the herd mentality of It is what it is and your commitment to do things differently are precisely what make you a leader others want to follow.
Keep going. Create a new path that doesn’t follow the herd, and then invite and welcome your team to come along for the ride.