Thoughts about hr and management in the real world – extra information I couldn't fit in my books!.

No-one wants to see your middle

I had a realisation when I was doing something completely non work related recently. That no-one wants to see your middle.

No I’m not talking about your stomach – I’m talking about something else entirely.

Currently in our French house renovation I’m redoing the ceiling in our bedroom. We have beams that have been stained dark brown, and then crappy plaster board in between. So at the weekend the plasterboard was ripped off, and I started to paint the beams and the exposed planks white.

The bedroom was a catastrophic mess. Plaster board everywhere, dust, screws, paint and paint fumes. It took hours to clean up and now I’ve got hours more painting to do (I worked out about 14 hours of painting to do!! ARGGH!!).

What I realised is, that while I love those house renovation programmes where they show the actual renovation – the only reason it’s fun watching the stuff in the middle – the mess, the problems, the budget overruns etc – is that at the end of the hour you get to see the transformation complete.

With normal change projects – the transformation at the end might take months. You have to try and keep people motivated during the mess and problems in the middle without having the transformation at the end to show them. Often because you don’t know quite what it will look like when the change is delivered, or you haven’t set a clear vision up front of what success will look like.

We might set out what the vision of the change is, but not the outcome. We don’t produce a picture of what the painted ceiling in our bedroom might look like when it’s finished.

So I realised as I stood painting the exposed planks, paint splats on my face and arms, the muscles in the back of my legs burning from being on tiptoe, my arms getting sore from reaching ever upwards – we have to get better in HR and management at getting people through the middle.


  • Celebrating small successes – when I’d painted one section of the ceiling I earned a break!
  • Finding ways to show what it might look like when it’s done – like the drawing of a room redesign they show on house renovations shows – is there something like you could do?
  • Getting your change champions out there – seeing when people are losing heart and urging them on. I had to do that to myself and some positive self-talk does do wonders (yes I did it out loud, and yes it is funny).

If you’re wanting some new ideas or practical training on making your change successful (the start, the middle bit and the end!) then Elephant have the Change Master Class to give you some tools and techniques to use. Check it out here.

As for me, the middle bit of painting my ceiling continues.

However I can imagine what it will look like when I get to the end, so I will get it done!

Angela Atkins is the co-founder of Elephant Group who now operate in NZ, Australia, the UK, Canada and the US. She is the author of the Bites series of books and the Management Bites training programme. She now lives in the south west of France, renovating a 200+ year old house.


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This entry was posted on August 31, 2021 by in Change management, human resources, Leadership.
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