Choosing a Habit

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”  ― Robert Frost

Part of the January ritual that society seems to have developed is this concept of New Year’s resolutions and the concept that we should develop new habits. i wondered where it originated and a thirty-second view of Wikipedia came up with some of the origins. They include:

  • Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debt.
  • The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.
  • In the Medieval era, the knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry
  • At watch night services, many Christians prepare for the year ahead by praying and making these resolutions

It made me realise that the concept of making promises is almost as old as creation. And as as old, people have probably tried to keep the promises and then broken them. Sunday is always that time of the week when I reflect, write and catch up on blogs, videos and podcasts. One of my favorite people I follow is James Tripp. He is currently on an extended world tour with his family and published a youtube podcast. The link to it is at the bottom of this article. Anyway, he was talking about “Choosing Vs Yielding”.

This made me realise that the key to creating a habit, keeping a promise and maintaining your New Year’s resolution is all about choosing to make that habit stick. I have in the past made a conscious agreement with myself that Mindfulness is an important part of my life. If it is as important to me as the rest of my life, then it should be as central to my daily life as possible, That is why, every weekday morning, I get up at 5:30am to practice. Why on earth 5:30? Well, if like me, you have to get up and go to work and that involves travel, then you know that for most of us, the hour’s drive, commute, cycle or train journey and you need to be at work for 8:30, then early starts are the key. So for me, to be able to practice 30 minutes of mindful movement and meditation every day, I need to be up early.

The start was hard. I got tired and ratty. The opposite of what I wanted to achieve, but, I was making that choice. After about a month, the effort got less, the idea became more unconscious and after about two months, it was a habit. Now I can do it or not and I do not feel guilty if I miss a day. I just accept and practice the following day.

Choice is one of the most powerful concepts. You choose to do something. To be someone. Moment by moment, day by day. Every day. We all make choices. Sometimes good ones. Sometimes not so good ones. For me, I made the decision and made the effort. Even if I missed a day, I did not remonstrate with myself, but accepted that sometimes, events meant I could not do it.  

James, mentions a riddle about frogs on logs. I came across it when I was doing a major change programme for an international company, changing the complete Services Delivery organisation for Europe. The book was given to each of us, as part of the Management of Change programme we were leading. I do recommend the book to read if you are going through major change at work. Though the bok is quite old, a lot of the premise and concepts are still valid. The riddle goes like this……

A riddle:

Five frogs are sitting on a log.

Four decide to jump off. How many are left?

Answer: Five


Because there’s a difference between deciding and doing.

Five Frogs on a Log: A CEO’s Field Guide to Accelerating the Transition in Mergers, Acquisitions And Gut Wrenching Change by Mark L. Feldman, Michael F. Spratt


I leave you with the following quote. It is from one of my favorite authors and books:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’

‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.

‘I don’t much care where -‘ said Alice.

‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.

‘- so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.

‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


Choosing Vs Yielding – A Dynamic Transformative Meditation by James Tripp

New Year, new resolutions and tips on how not to fail

“I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me. ” ― Anaïs Nin

This blog was originally going to be called “New Year, Old Habits, New Habits, New Beginnings” but I realised two things. Firstly, I was being too positive and making the assumption that we would all be succeeding in our new year’s resolutions, rather than failing in the first week and secondly, the no one was really talking about the practical steps we can all take to help support and make the changes we want stick.

Come the New Year, comes the idea that we should have a “New Year’s Resolution” to do something different. Diet exercise; relationships; work/life balance; savings and spending; change of life direction; smoking; drinking; eating meat [or other types of food]; we get to January and want to make a new start.

We set out with the best intentions in the world and then work / life / family / something else, gets in the way and we fail to achieve what we have set out. Why does this happen? Let’s start with a view of why our best intentions falter…….

[A]. Change is easy

We create the idea that whatever change we want to make is going to be easy. Let’s be truthful here. Any change is hard. We are creatures of habit. Small habits, like what type of toothpaste to use, types of food we eat, the types of clothes we wear, the types of places we visit, even the type of friends and relationships we have. All are based on comfort and a reluctance to change.

[B] You assume you have a plan, are following it and are being successful.

Or as they say about “assume” you can make an ass out of you and me.Come on, really. you have a plan? We might, if we are lucky sketch out on a piece of paper or write on a diary / calendar the end point that we want to get to, but the journey in between is written in fog or not at all. You are making a life choice. Think about examples like buying a house; getting married; or moving to another country / place. Do you do these on the spur of the moment or do you think and plan for them? We are making personal changes and we should plan and celebrate milestones of achievement. More later.

[C]. Time and Milestones of achievement.

There has been a raft of research on how long it takes for a habit to “stick” and become part of your every day life. Some say 21 days, other research says as much as 66 days. Pause for a moment, please and think about the last time you made a successful change in your own habits. Go on think. From the moment you had the idea to make the change, through to the point where it became part of your life, can take anything from 1 month to 3 months. Dependant on the depth of the change; how much effort you had to put in and obviously, how much you wanted it to happen as quickly as possible.

So, we have dealt with why change resolutions falter. I want to turn it around to how you can make them successful. Oh, by the way. Even if you have started a resolution, it is still worth thinking about how to make them “stick”. And for those of you that have dropped one of your goals, you might want to think about taking some of these tips and trying again.

Understanding your “Change & Learning Styles” to achieve your goals:

How? We all use the “VAK” model in our everyday lives. What on earth is “VAK” and what does it mean? Which type of person are you? What is your preferred learning style? That is the key here. How do YOU learn….

We all have a preferred learning style, be it through looking at; listening to;or touching. These different approaches are called Visual; Auditory or Kinesthetic learning styles. If you don’t know what is your style, there are links at the bottom of this article to help you identify yours. So, how can you leverage this to achieve your goals?

Visual Aids and Tips

  • Use pictures from magazines, or from the web and place them in noticeable places in the house for example, for foods that you want to eat, rather than foods you should not
  • I saved the money when I gave up smoking. Every day I would add a £5 note to the jar. After a week, I realised that if I was to start smoking again, I would have to begin by taking out the £5 notes and burning them! After a month, I had £150 and went out and treated myself.
  • If you have put milestones on the calendar, put pictures on it, highlight key dates. If you have a smartphone, put in reminders and include positive congratulatory notes.
  • An interesting tip, is if you use a PC, tablet or smartphone and have a password, why not change the password to reflect the phrase of your goal, i.e. “I no longer smoke”. It does work. Check out this article for details:
  • Feel free to comment on examples you use….


Auditory Aids and Tips

  • Why not record yourself saying what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. Then play it back to yourself.
  • If the resolution or goal involves a trip abroad, why not play the music from that place. Or the sounds of the sea if you happen to be by the sea.
  • You can use music, videos or movies to help re-enforce the places, events or activities you would like to happen.
  • Why not talk to a friend or family member and talk about the goal you want to achieve and get them to remind you on a regular basis – in a positive way – that you are doing really well

Kinesthetic Aids and Tips

  • This all involves moment, so in some respects is the most simplistic and at the same time, the most difficult to develop.
  • One of my goals for this year is to focus on exercise, so I have been focusing on standing up and movement. This encourages me to want to move more.
  • Have an object near you that you can touch. For instance, a tennis ball or golf ball if you want to learn tennis or golf.

The key elements to creating a new habit, is understanding what the goal you want; develop the routine and then reward the change. The power to positively reinforce the changes you want to make is the biggest element in any success.

As for me, I have three resolutions for 2016 and every day I am trying to achieve elements of each one. This first week back at work can only be described as manic, but even so, I have managed 3 out of 4 day to achieve my goals. Not perfect, but again, I am moving forward. I will write a separate article on my “3 words for 2016”.

I leave you with the following quote:

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.


If you want to find out what you prefered learning style, you can check out these links:

Management of Change – final research part – Enabling people to change

“Culture does not change because we desire to change it. Culture changes when the organization is transformed; the culture reflects the realities of people working together every day.” Frances Hesselbein, The Key to Cultural Transformation, Leader to Leader (Spring 1999)

In the last post, I talked about the biggest positive impact in enabling change, Agility, how to recognise it and also develop it. This final article in this series is about enabling people to change by defining different behaviours to enable the change.

The role that a “change agent” plays in the organisational change is significant and should not be underestimated. Change agents do not have to be the leader of the change. Rather, change agents are people that are considered to be key supporters and enablers of the change. I have seen successful change agents at all levels of an organisation, not just in the “C” suite.

One method of change, is to talk about change as an event or a series of events that are led by someone who is specifically given the task within in the organisation. This approach will fail due to the fact that the change is though of as a task, or a physical activity, which it is not. You can not buy change as a product and expect people to put it on, somewhat like a number jumper.

Another method is concerned with getting people to buy-in to the change, almost like they are passengers on a “change bus”. Imagine a London red bus that you can hop on and off of at any point. Is that what you want your people to feel and engage in as part of the change? This method also relies on building trust, compliance and commitment. Again, back to the Red bus metaphor: you trust that the driver knows the route, is safe and considerate and will get you to your destination on time. You, as the passenger have to buy a ticket to get on the bus and conclude your journey – that is the compliance part and the commitment is that you will not get frustrated at the time the journey is taking, or get worried about the passenger that just got on, and get off before the journey ends.

The latest thinking on the right method of change, is built around an engaged set of change agents at all levels of an organisation, working together, where change as a constant theme. This method is about setting the context for the change in the broader world and market; seeking active employee feedback on the key changes that need to occur; prioritising coaching and support of the change, and where change is a constant integral part of the organisation, rather than change events on their own. As well as allowing the employees opportunities to try new things without fear of ridicule and rejection – it is concerned with positively allowing them to succeed as well as fail and in failing, not, and I repeat, not punishing them for any failure.

It is all about emotional engagement, rather than a sequence of tasks. You need to “get inside their heads” as it were. You can consider the following questions as a way to engage the employees in the change. I have used an analogy of a lack of new customers in a retail store to provide answers:

Q: What is the underlying challenge? A: Lack of new customers in the store.

Q: What is the business goal? A: Grow the number of new customers by x through increasing the number that both enter the store and purchase goods as a result.

Q: What type of business decisions do you need to make to help us grow the number of customers? A: As a shop assistant, I need to be aware of the broad range of our products and services and the benefits they bring when talking to customers.

Q: What information would you need to help you achieve that …… “awareness” A: I need product brochures and an understanding of the benefits. I need to know where in the store those products are, so that I cnaquickly direct the customer to the right location.

Q: How would you explain the benefits to someone  A: Think about describing it to your partner, mum, friend. The benfits of using product x

After all, it is about walking in the shoes of the people that in the front line of the changes in your organisation, rather than treating them as if they are a passenger on a bus. So the next time you are planning a major change event, reflect on the key messages from this short series of fives posts. They include:

  • How do you embrace change?
  • The time it takes to recover from a change event and the speed of the changes you want to implement?
  • What accumulated impacts are your people and the broader organisation going to experience?
  • How agile and flexible is the change programme you are developing?
  • Finally, how do you enable people to hange? How do you get into their shoes.

I hope you have found the articles of interest and have sparked your own thoughts on change.

Management of Change – Latest research part 4 – Agility is the Key

Even those who fancy themselves the most progressive will fight against other kinds of progress, for each of us is convinced that our way is the best way.” Louis L’Amour (The Lonely Men)

In the last post, I talked about the accumulated impact of the change and that there is one driver of employee change that has the biggest positive impact in enabling change, Agility.

Agility is defined as: he state or quality of being agile. Agile is Characterized by quickness, lightness, Mentally quick or alert: and has its roots in the latin word agere, to drive.

The research talks about the fact that agile employees are more able to adapt to change because they themselves feel that they are in control of their own response to a changing environment.

The traditional approach to change in an organisation may go something like this:

A group of senior executives get together, normally on an “away-day” out of the office environment and review where the business is going; its plans and activities; where there are significant issues that need to be resolved. What happens next could be a committee is formed to look into the issues; or a task force; or a “hit squad”. Whatever the title, the outcome is normally, a set of recommendations and a plan is put to the executives; challenged; mulled over; reviewed; and finally, a set of changes are decided upon. Then, a senior executive, or maybe a group of executives are tasked with leading and driving the changes. They then start the change process, cascading DOWN the organisation the need for the changes. This is known as the “done to” effect. The employees feel as if they are the victims; completely out of control of their own destiny and in effect the object of the change.

In the Management of Change world that I am used to, it absolutely imperative to put the employee at the heart of the changes. You need to think from the employee outwards; to their managers; their peers; the customers they deal with directly; and ultimately the leadership teams interaction with them. This is the “Agility Approach”.

So how do you enable the employees to feel this way?

A personal connection with the employees; the peers of the employees all sharing experiences and learning from the change and putting the change in the context of the external world, not just an internal company view; really helps to have positive impact on the agility factor. The research concluded this section with the following statistics on percentage impact on change:

Leadership Confidence – 0.1%
Encouragement in the organisation to change: 2.6%
The context of the market conditions to change: 7.2%
Learning from your peers on the key changes and their engagement: 8.4%

The personal connection you have with the change: 11.3% impact

How you as a change agent can help effect the change is the next article in the series.

I leave you with a joke, an old one, but still funny:

A man is flying in a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost. He reduces height and spots a man down below. He lowers the balloon further and shouts, “Excuse me. Can you help me? I promised my friend I would meet him half an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

The man below says, “Yes, you are in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 40 feet above this field. You are between 46 & 48 degrees N latitude and between 52 & 56 degrees W. longitude.”

“You must be an engineer,” says the balloonist.

“I am,” replies the man. “How did you know?”

“Well,” says the balloonist, “everything you have told me is technically correct but I have no idea what to make of your information and the fact is I am still lost.”

The man below says, “You must be a Manager”

“I am,” replies the balloonist, “but how did you know?”

“Well,” says the man below, “you don’t know where you are or where you are going. You have made a promise which you have no idea how to keep and you expect me to solve your problem. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met but now it is somehow my fault.”

Management of Change – Latest research part 3 – Accumulated Impacts

“The rate of change is not going to slow down anytime soon. If anything, competition in most industries will probably speed up even more in the next few decades.” John P. Kotter [Leading Change]

In the last post, I talked about the impact of change and time that it takes to recover from the change. This post talks about the accumulated impact of the change.

Change is all around us, at work, socially and personally. The rate of change over the past few years has exploded. We have developed and deployed technology that is starting to significantly impact our daily lives. If you want to check out some of the key technology trends for 2020, got to:

The rate of social change, including the launch of social media platforms, mobile phones and the interconnected world is changing the way we fundamentally interact with each other. Think for example, about the last time you wrote a letter to someone; something our parents did all the time. Or, traveling with a bunch of teenagers in the car the other day, I was struck by the fact that they were quiet. Until I realised they were texting, instagram’ing and snapchatting their friends and each other….

Finally, work. Employees and work environments are changing so rapidly – to keep pace with the technology, competition and rapidly changing markets. Planning cycles that were 10 year plans, 50 years ago, having reduced to 5 years in the early 21st century, are now less than 3 years. Think about it for a moment; a multi-million “dollar / pound / euro” business has to fundamentally shift its focus and align its workforce in a new direction.

Fact: The average employee is now experiencing a significant change in the work environment every even months.

If you consider the previous article and the recovery time for a significant change is two years, you realise that there is an accumulated impact effect of the change. So, how do you as a change agent in an organisation react to this challenge? How on earth do you feel? It could feel to some as if there is tidal wave of change coming towards them; you either ride the change wave, hoping that you are good enough at balancing on the curve that you survive; or, the wave hits you and you drown. So what key things do you need to consider to be able to get up and ride the waves of change and which ones work?

Firstly, Driving Change: Responding to the change in terms of driving the individual, team, group or organisation to follow the directions of change – in effect, forcing the change upon them, has no benefit at all. In fact it is counter-intuitive. 0% improvement

Next, More Effort: The old adage of working harder does have an effect. It does improve the responsiveness of the change, but this can only be maintained for a short time. Think about running as hard as you can. You can only do this for a short while. Possibly a 5% improvement, but then it falls away

Finally, Enabling Agility: Support the people around you through the changes; actively seeking feedback and action upon it; learning from others and proactively adapting your efforts to the change have the biggest impact. The biggest impact with a 17% improvement and it sustains

How to put in place an Agility Strategy to support the changes is the next article in the series.

Management of Change – Latest research part 2 of 5 – Change Burn Out

“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.”— James Belasco and Ralph Stayer Flight of the Buffalo (1994)

Continuing the outcome from the Corporate Executive Board webinar, this article is on four categories of change success and measuring the impact of the changes. This also impacts change in the personal environment.

The Four Categories of Change Success are:

1. FIT: Improving the Intelligence: This involves id’ing key driving forces; understanding key trends; assessing current performance; and evaluating current competencies and performance

2. Focus: What are the current performance goals and how to make them clearer; what are the key risks of the change; change plans; what feedback would you want to ensure the change is successful

3. Friends: Understand team objectives, concerns and objections; how to include key parts of the organisation and third parties; how to ensure key stakeholders are fully engaged and on board

4. Future: what are the quick wins; how to celebrate these; managing the change initiatives and driving the performance of the organisation through the changes.

It is nice to see that the core elements of change have not lost their meaning over the past few years. One of the most interesting aspects is around stress. And how that impacts what happens.

The fact that stress harms performance; whether the change is work, social or life related; will strike a chord with everyone. There is a correlated impact for people that are stressed in terms of their performance, to a degradation in performance of at least 9%. The behavioural impacts include:

  • Belief in the “work”
  • Mastering new Things
  • Taking Enjoyment in the Activities
  • Adapting to new Systems or Processes
  • Putting in the Extra Effort
  • Looking for Better Ways to do Things
  • Helping Peers / Colleagues

The impact of the stress is mostly felt under the surface in terms of the person’s emotions and behaviour including:- Confusion; Doubt; Loss; and disorientation. These do not – unless you understand the correlation – lend themselves to the fact that the person is stressed, but boy-oh-boy are they.

I will leave you with the following statistic…..

“It takes the average person, more than two years to recover from a major change”

Think about a major change in your life: marriage; a new child; divorce; redundancy; a new job; moving to a new part of the world, etc , etc.

Just sit for a moment and reflect. If you can remember the “moment” the change was announced and then the total time for the change to effect, I would wholeheartedly agree with this statistic. A two year recovery cycle. When you consider the level of change in an organisation, this is probably the key reason why people suffer from “change burn-out”

The next article will discuss the impact of multiple changes, how to deal with the changes and practical support you can develop.

Management of Change – Latest research part 1 – Embracing Change

“One key to successful leadership is continuous personal change. Personal change is a reflection of our inner growth and empowerment.” Robert E. Quinn

One of the aspects of working in a B2B – Business 2 Business – service organisation, is that there are organisations and research that the company I work for subscribes to and as a consequence I can reflect on as part of my daily work. I continually seek to learn of new research in the MoC arena and also the impact of people in the change world.

I was able to attend a Corporate Executive Board [CEB] webinar [an online presentation and audio broadcast] on “Driving change through leadership transition”. The fascination for me was to reflect the latest research and the impact of the “Y” and “Z” generations and on the way that how you manage and lead change has morphed over the past 10 years. The CEB has 21,00 senior executives [including 100% of fortune 100 companies in the USA, 90% of the Fortune 500 companies in Europe, and more than 85% of the UK FTSE 100 companies – so a well connected organisation]. I would never advocate any single group or organisation, but these folks have been used by everyone and every organisation I have worked for for the past 15 years in a non-judgemental approach and are highly rated.

I thought I would highlight some of the key outcomes from the research I have read so far. They include:

# Change agents and executives that plan and successfully execute the change plans, achieving the benefits 9 months BEFORE those that don’t do this.

# If you are able to execute the change plans, you can achieve revenue AND profit improvements of 3 to 5%.

# If you embrace and lead the transition – acting and behaving as a “Transition Leader”, your direct reports can feel more engaged and can improve their performance more than 15% better than those who are not engaged. This is a significant change as the “Y” and “Z” generations want to feel more engaged. if these terms do not connect, let me know and I’ll put up a definition of “Y” and “Z”.

# Financially, for every £1 of revenue earned, there is 20p directly attributable to change performance and the outcomes. I have always worked on 10p directly and a further 10p indirectly, or 20% impact. This is the same over the past 10 years. You need to think of the 20% impact rule on any change agenda.

The final statistic for this article is that 20% are likely to be disengaged or leave the organisation as a result of a major. If you are looking to cut your people – remove, delete, sack, fire, eradicate – whatever term you can use, reflect that people numbers on a excel spreadsheet are PEOPLE…… and that this has a significant impact on a business.

i’ll post the 2nd part tomorrow which will include the four categories of success and measuring the impact of the changes. The post after that will cover how to equip people to make the change a success.