About this site

While this blog continues being read by you, I will leave the site up.
My own interest in change in organisations has now led me to work helping organisations transition to an “office optional” approach, helping managers lead remote teams.

You can continue reading my blog posts over at the Virtual not Distant blog, and we have 200 episodes of the 21st Century Work Life podcast there too.

Thriving through Change is still available as an ebook and I do have plans to update it and release it as a paperback in 2020. Meanwhile, my colleague (and friend) have released a new book on leading remote teams: Thinking Remote: Inspiration for Leaders of Distributed Teams. 
(Links to books are affiliate links.)




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Posted by on May 18, 2019 in change


The Emotional Journey through Change – Video

The idea that change involves some kind of loss is not a new one and yet it’s something we often overlook.

In this video, I go introduce the change curve (briefly) and suggest ways in which you can make your transition just that little bit less painful.

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Posted by on December 9, 2013 in change, leadership


Updated: Thriving through Change at Work.

I enjoyed this book because it recognises that change at work is an emotional process, affecting our self esteem and manifesting in physical affects.

The range of different sources and theories explained in this book flowed really well and have led me to read more widely, which is impressive as this is a subject I know really well so am very grateful for the new ideas.

(Amazon review for the first edition of Thriving through Change at Work.)

Book cover for Thriving through Change at WorkThe book has been updated with new material to help managers and team leaders to guide others through change.

The second edition includes:

– Changing involves Learning
A short section on Kolb’s cycle and how the model can help to raise our awareness of how our team members learn, an integral part of adapting to change.

– Reducing Fear of the Unknown.
Most of our resistance to change comes from not knowing what the future will bring. While it might not be possible to get rid of that fear all together, there are things that can be done to decrease it.

– Escalation of Commitment.
Don’t stick to your guns for the sake of it: make sure you don’t continue down the wrong path just to save face.

Currently the book is only available from the Kindle store, at a promotional price until the 19th August 2013.

Do let me know what you think of it if you buy it.

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Posted by on August 8, 2013 in change, leadership


Dealing with Resistance to Change Video

If you are dealing with change at work at the moment, this video might come in handy.

In just over five minutes, it covers the most common reasons why people resist change.


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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in change, leadership, video


Using the Change Curve in Communication during Change

Change theory is useful to help us begin to create some order in what is a very chaotic process: change. No matter how many processes or plans you include in your change management strategy, at some point change will be chaotic as it involves people. People are different from each other: they have different priorities in life, different concerns, different private lives, different reasons for coming into work, etc.

Change in an organisation might throw people into the unknown. Individuals might have to experience ways of working they hadn’t encountered before. It is therefore difficult to foresee how your team members will react: they might even be surprised themselves.

One very popular change model which might help during the management of change is the curve created by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. After interviewing cancer patients as they came to terms with their disease, Kubler-Ross found that individuals tipically went through five emotional stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance. (If you enjoy watching Frasier, there is an episode which illustrates these stages of grief very well, I think it’s the first episode in series 6.)

Kubler-Ross then went on to research how this model fitted in with other life-changing experiences. It is worth saying at this point, that the psychologist was very aware that the model was just that, a model, and that the emotional journey through change is particular to each individual.

When facilitating discussion around personal change at work, I prefer to use the model created by Adams, Hayes and Hopson, who added a state of Shock/Relief at the beginning (also referred to as “immobilisation”) and the stages of experimentation and discovery before the change is integrated.

Change Curve

It’s worth noting how much self-esteem rises and falls, how there are quite a few emotions involved in the process and the fact that it takes time to be comfortable with the change.

This model might help you to structure your communication during change or to give you an idea of how people in your team and organisation might behave during transitions. But this is not a blueprint. There are plenty of other emotions that will surface and they will not appear neatly one after the other. Hopefully the curve will help you to anticipate some problems.

So, as you manage change in your team:

  • Don’t be surprised if there is a loss of productivity when the change is announced as the information sinks in.
  • Set some time aside for people to vent their anger or frustration, so that they can get their anger (or fears, insecurities etc) off their chest. Even if the change is welcome or supposed to improve their conditions, self-esteem will drop at some point.
  • Be prepared to repeat information over and over again. It is difficult to assimilate or even hear new information when all sorts of emotions are bubbling up inside.

And above all, allow yourself to feel all sorts of emotions, it comes with the job.


Posted by on December 10, 2012 in change, leadership


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The Self-fulfilling Prophecy and Change

The Importance of Mindset.

Do you try to turn mistakes into learning opportunities (albeit painful ones)? Or do you see them as a part of life which we just have to overcome and forget about?

If you don’t believe that you can learn from your mistakes, then you subscribe to the “entity theory” that your intelligence is finite and there is little you can do to develop it. If you think that by analyzing your performance you can get a bit better every day, then you subscribe to the “incremental theory” of intelligence. (Both theories as labeled by Carol Dweck.)

Your mindset will influence how you perform: if you think you can learn from your mistakes, you will. If you don’t believe so, you won’t. This last self-fulfilling prophecy is dangerous on many levels.

If you believe that you are at the top of your game, you will avoid risks that challenge that perception. If you are not quite happy with your current performance but think there is no point in trying to improve it, you will just stay away from anything where you can possibly fail.

What happens when we make mistakes?

When we first realise we have made a mistake, the brain reacts with two signals in the anterior cingulated cortex, the area responsible for helping to monitor behavior, anticipate rewards and regulate attention. The first signal occurs 50 milliseconds after the error occurs and is referred to as Error-related negativity (ERN). The second signal is called Error positivity (Pe) and it takes place 100-500ms after the mistake, when we pay attention to the error.

Research has shown that the larger the ERN signal and the more consistent the Pe signal appears, the stronger the learning experience from mistakes.

Mind and Brain

Let’s go back to the entity and incremental theories of intelligence and how these mindsets affect how much we can learn from mistakes.

A recent study (2011) by psychologist Jason Morser aimed to find out whether brain activity during “mistake-making” differed between those people who thought they could learn from the experience and those who thought they couldn’t.

University students had to identify the middle letter of a series of five letters, such as MMMMM or MMNMM. To record their brain activity, the students wore an EEG (electroencephalography) cap, which records neural activity in the brain, though not the location of this activity.

Those students with growth mindset got better at the exercise as time went on, learning from their mistakes. The main difference in neural activity was the larger Pe signal, meaning that they were paying greater attention to the fact that they had made a mistake. This signal was three times as large and was correlated with improvements after a mistake was made.

So what?

Our brains are programmed not just to identify errors, but also to dwell on them. Stronger brain activity related to awareness of errors results in a greater ability to learn from mistakes.

What this science doesn’t tell us (yet) is whether our brain physiology is dictating our mindset or whether our mindset is having an effect on our brain activity. This reflects the ongoing brain/mind and nature/nurture debates. Bearing in mind that the brain is plastic and changes as we age, I think it is safe to say: a bit of both.

There is no doubt that undergoing change (at work, in our personal lives) is going to involve some degree of learning by trial and error. Making mistakes is rarely pleasant (I say rarely, because there are some activities where getting it wrong can be quite amusing) and the temptation might be to move on and forget about them. That’s fine, as long as before you start discarding them, you consider whether they have anything to offer, removing a bit of that bitter taste from your mouth.

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Posted by on August 15, 2012 in change


Change and Our Primitive Reactions to Modern Stimuli

Imagine you are out exploring in the jungle (go on, why not?). You are alert. You are paying attention to every bit of flora and fauna around you. Suddenly, in front of you, you see a lion. A threat. Your heartbeat increases. Your blood sugar level is raised. The blood flow to your muscles increases so that you can run away, fast.

Maybe you tense your jaw, to appear more fierce.

Maybe you clench your fists, to appear stronger.

You probably lift your shoulders to protect your neck area.

You run away from the lion (he is not that hungry, so he doesn’t follow you) and you return home, where you feel safe and can relax.

Now consider a more urban setting. An office building.

Changes are happening left, right and centre.

You are continuously alert as you absorb all the new information around you, as you make sure you are not operating on an auto-pilot that is no longer suitable, as you address new problems for the first time.

You attend a meeting.

You learn about some changes that will affect you directly over the next few months. You leave the room with your shoulders up by your ears. You sit at your desk and try to relax. At least your computer is familiar to you. Then you notice the intranet has changed. You are on full alert again, your shoulders creep up to your ears once more. You find what you need and start to relax. But your mind wanders back to the meeting, and you try to assess what the new information means to you. Without you noticing, your shoulders begin to creep up to your ears again.  Then you realize that the deadline for the progress report on the new project is tomorrow. Your heartbeat speeds up once again, as does your breathing.

You go home not even noticing that your shoulders are up by your ears and that you are holding your breath, as this has been the norm all day.

While the roaring lion situation is much more dangerous in the short-term, the urban setting scenario can have a long-term effect. Having your life threatened by a lion is more stressful but it is also punctual. It happens once (I hope!) and kicks off a series of physiological response, but soon these effects wear off and your body goes back to normal.

In every day life however, small stressors have an effect on your body continuously and unless you are aware of how you are reacting, the body never goes back to its original posture. This is why it is important to develop physical self-awareness, so that you know when your body is tense when it shouldn’t be and so that you can recognize the effect a new situation is having on you physically.

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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in change