The Number One Reason Your Team Fails to Change

Alan Cameron-Sweeney

My man crush is Gordon Ramsay.

Yes, my wife knows!

I love his show Kitchen Nightmares. It’s riveting to watch him parachute into a restaurant, assess the disastrous situation, and spend a week confidently turning things around. 

The American version of the show is overdramatised. They get the version of Gordon Ramsay that shouts, berates, and dishes out tough love - with an emphasis on the tough.

The British version isn’t like that. It’s more authentic.

When you tune into that show, you see the real Gordon Ramsay. He’s stern, but empathetic. He’s funny and charming. He’s a great coach to the kitchen staff.

But what about the restaurants themselves?

Do they actually turn things around?

Mostly, no. Not even with Gordon’s helping hand.

Here’s why.

Joining the 5-ish AM Club

Earlier this year, I was reading The 5 AM Club.

Maybe you’re bristling at that.

I’ve heard some people say that those who swear by the book aren’t just enjoying a good read - they’re in a cult!

And yes, I’ve seen the 5 AM Cult in action too. Those people bragging on social media about how they have ran 10 miles before you have even gotten out of bed,

But I’ve also heard it was good for building habits. Since I wanted to get this newsletter off the ground, I figured I could use a few of those good habits myself. 

Besides, I don’t follow it to the letter. Technically, I only joined the 6 AM Club.

The big eye-opener in the book was that it takes 66 days to develop a new habit. 

That's a lot.

There I was, thinking I could nail a new habit in a week. Then stack another habit on top of it.

And sure enough, it did take a few months to build the morning habit. 

The key ingredient for me is that I have to go to bed at nine.

Yes, that makes me sound like an old man. But I’m okay with that. I’m an old soul.

After I get a good night’s sleep, my body will naturally wake around 5:50 or so. 

The book also preached the benefits of movement in the morning. So after getting up, I go for a 30 minute walk up and down a big hill. 

That wasn’t my first choice of what to do just as the sun comes up, but I’m glad I did it. I don’t know why, but my brain works a lot better after that walk.

Once I get back in, I make my coffee and sit down to write.

Why Even Gordon Ramsay Can’t Save Failing Restaurants

What does my new morning routine have to do with Kitchen Nightmares?

I think the reason those restaurants fail is because it’s very difficult to change a habit.

The entire staff does well when Gordon is watching over them.

Maybe they can keep that motivation up for a week after he jets off to help the next struggling kitchen.

But can they follow Gordon’s advice for 66 days straight? 

We don’t have to wonder. Gordon often comes back weeks later to see how things are going.

Usually, they’re not going great.

One place even closed the week after he left.

A week!

That’s about eight weeks short of what’s needed to form a new habit.

They really didn’t stand a chance. Not unless they were willing to stick with it.

How to Build Better Habits in Your Team

Organisations or teams often start a culture change initiative with a big launch.

They nominate Change Champions. They’re the ones who already embody the new values. They’ll be the role models for us mere mortals. 

The hype is strong at first.

“Woohoo!!! Yeah!!! Culture change!!! Let's do this!!!”

But then?


Gordon Ramsay has left the building. 

Unless you happen to be making a TV show out of it, that launch was a waste of time.

Actual Change Created = Zero

All that fuss for nothing.

And why didn’t all that enthusiasm move the needle?

Because the launch didn’t last 66 days.

None of the changes stick because the glue didn’t have time to set.

After celebrating the new values, everyone just goes back to the old ones.

Motivating Change in Finance, One Step at a Time

Finance leaders need their teams to be strategic thinkers who add value to the business.

If you’re looking to create change in your team, what is your plan to change habits at a behavioural level?

I’ll give you one tip to help build momentum: celebrate what you want to see more of.

In team meetings, keep a running list of wins and achievements that show the desired habit change. Celebrating those will encourage more of the same.

 I have a flip chart on my wall with my 2024 wins. Those achievements add up. It gives me a morale boost when I encounter a small setback.

Yes, you just had to take a step backwards. But you took ten steps forward before that.

Celebrate those steps in the right direction and you’ll keep taking more.

And before you know it, you’ll have taken 66 of them.

         Alan “I heart Gordon” Cameron-Sweeney

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