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‘Yes, but why can’t we?’

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

“After I became CEO in 2012, I had a list of changes I wanted to make in my first 100 days.

“One of them was letting our special-event visitors bring alcohol into our museum exhibitions.

“At first, I couldn’t get my employees—the curators—to agree to let people take their drinks in. So I asked them, ‘Everything’s behind glass. Why can’t we change that rule?’

“A curator said, ‘We’ve always done it that way. And what happens if someone spills wine on the carpet?’

“‘That’s why we have a cleaning crew,’ I said. I added that we were missing an opportunity to further our mission if no one goes into the exhibits. But if we sell alcohol, the more people drink, the more money we’ll raise to fund our operation.

“Still, I didn’t want to impose this rule change on them, especially since I was the new CEO. So I said, ‘Please tell me why we can’t do this. I’m all ears. I’m a lawyer, and I’m always ready to hear facts and listen to reason.’

“They had to defend the rule, and they couldn’t. If you can’t defend it, you can’t be upset about changing it.

“Eventually, they accepted the change, and it has worked out great. Special-event visitors can now bring their drinks with them as they tour the exhibits, and it adds a whole new level of hospitality and relevance.

“The public reaction has been wonderful and more people have discovered us.”

– Sheffield Hale, CEO, Atlanta History Center, Atlanta, Ga.

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