A number of years ago I was pulled into one of those “fun” management  group exercises with a very serious message, you may have played it.

Asked to stand in two lines with your back to your partner, we were first each asked to make 3 changes about our dress, the game then being to turn and spot the changes your partner made.

ROUND ONE…easy…I loosened my tie, took my jacket off and unbuttoned my top button… annoyingly my partner spotted the changes within 3 seconds…

ROUND TWO… 5 changes needed this time, sighs in the room, my competitive side tweaked, I rose to the challenge , I went further this time …off came my shoes …both sleeves rolled up, even the belt from the trousers (now casually flung behind me, and stomach inflated to avoid disaster)… my changes were spotted within 10 seconds by my now red faced partner….

ROUND THREE …”7 More changes please” …7 CHANGES!!!  Was this facilitator a sadist? I froze…what was left?  Now don’t get me wrong – I like winning…but really…no game is worth a career of regret… 30 seconds went by, a minute, …my hands moving up and down my body as if searching for loose change…nothing..I was dry. Dry of ideas. Dry of action. Defeated.

Suddenly aware of my competitors , I looked along the line…Iand saw the shared fear in my colleagues (two now barefoot on the cold tiled floor and stepping quickly from foot to foot), lots of head shaking, three had quietly left the line already and sat cross armed and dressed in frowns . The remainder were waiting, waiting like me, waiting for the whistle, the whistle of defeat…

Sometimes I hate games.

Exercise over, the facilitator walked up and down and surveyed his motley crew. He smiled.


He smiled again.

“Tell me..why did none of you put your clothes back on?”

Wow. It was clear, not one of us had sought to make ourselves more comfortable at any point in the exercise. Not one.

The Facilitator continued “Don’t worry, this is normal, it happens every time – no-one ever does…ok, exercise over, get dressed and we carry on.”

Make a change in your dress” he had said …

Change to us, had meant discomfort.

It did then, and for most of us, I guess  it still does, a human default for the majority when faced with the thought of the new.

Encouraging people to take the opportunity within their fast changing environment, to pause and “get comfy” , whatever “comfy” means for them is a powerful thought  – whether this is simply answering questions to help understanding,  inviting participation or design thoughts on what needs to be done (see  10 Steps to Happy Daysor even just allowing people time to pause, giving them space to breathe and reflect that all this new stuff isn’t so bad, well, it just works.

Knowing this simple truth has changed my thought process to facing Change, build in opportunities for individuals to take some comfort is not at all a sign of leadership weakness, of unnecessary delay, no, its a sign of smart leadership,  its a sign of a sustainable plan.

Like I said, a fun exercise with a very powerful message.

For more thoughts on Leading change, check out Change3 at: