Sticky Change

When we got home from holiday the other week I was making a coffee. Kettle on, cups out of the cupboard….something felt odd but I wasn’t sure what, so I just carried on. Then as I passed James his drink I realised I’d made it in the mug he doesn’t like. We’d had a laugh a few months before about getting old and set in our ways if we’d got to the stage of having favourite mugs!


So for quite a while we’d been having our cuppas in our own personal favourites.  Yet despite the length of time we’d been doing that, and even though we’d only been away for two weeks, I’d forgotten about it. The change hadn’t stuck.

It reminded me of a school meeting at the end of last term where the parents were invited in, to hear about the changes ahead, as our children move up to the heady heights of Year 3!!

There were lots of new things like more homework, music classes, new PE kit, and a general theme of the children taking more responsibility for themselves. “Don’t worry though” the head of Year 3 told us “we’ll be there to help your children adapt and change so they get used to the new routine and new expectations. By half term, and certainly by Christmas, it’ll be just the way it is.”

So to make this change stick with children (who are fairly adaptable and mouldable) the teachers (who know exactly what the change needs to be) expect to spend 6-12 weeks consistently reinforcing the new standards.


I couldn’t help thinking how often we attempt to make changes in work, or even within ourselves, and that after [one briefing / one training session / one read-through of a self-help book / one coaching session*] we believe everything’s been done, all boxes ticked, to make the ‘new’ stick and then we move on to the next big thing.  And given that the world isn’t a place of black and white certainty, we often don’t really know exactly what the ‘new’ looks like – unlike the teachers.

On top of this, we as adults are less mouldable than children. We have a lot more stories, beliefs and rules stored and reinforced in our subconscious that hold us back from changing because it feels scary.

But the world is fast and changing ever faster. New and different expectations appear every day.

So what do we do? What choices do we have to deal with this?

I don’t have all the answers. And yet, as I write that, maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s the answer, because nobody has all the answers.


Maybe if we want change to happen and to stick we need more collaboration, we need to make it a ‘together’ thing so that more people with different viewpoints are part of creating the ‘new’.  Even if that ‘new’ is your own improved leadership, asking those around you for feedback on their perceptions of how you are now will provide more information to help shape how you want to be different.

Then if more people ‘get it’ from the start, they can spot and challenge when it’s not happening – they play the role of the teachers!  Whether it’s trusted confidants or a coach for a personal change, or colleagues in a hierarchy-flattened high-trust team for a work change.

And if we’re serious about the change we’ll need ongoing reminders from those ‘teachers’ until new pathways in the brain have been created and stuck.

But also, as individuals, we need support to develop ourselves and raise our awareness so that we recognise our beliefs that could be causing the change to feel threatening or challenging. Once we know them we can check if those beliefs are actually true or if there could be something more true, helpful and less threatening to believe.

So whether there’s a change you want to make within you, or within your business….

Who’s going to help you create the change and decide on what the ‘new’ is?

Who will help you find out and challenge your beliefs that are causing you to feel concerned?

Who are your supporters to help the change stick?

Who will bring challenge when things go off track?

Who’ll play the role of your teachers?

So change can be made easier but to achieve that we need to wake up and smell the coffee (made in the right mug!) so that we make it a ‘together’ thing that we stick with until it sticks – or until the next change happens which changes our direction again!


*please delete any that don’t apply

Image credits –’s_sticky_goo.jpg

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