Hot, hotter, cold, colder. Navigating change like a child playing the hot and cold game

12th August by James Woodeson

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Navigating change like a child

Did you ever play that game when you were young?  Your friend, brother or sister hides something and you have to find it. 

When you got close, you would hear “Hot! Hotter! Boiling!” and if going off course, “Cold! Colder! Freezing!”.

This game transcends geography and culture.  I played it and I love to watch my children play it together now.

This in-the-moment feedback has a universal impact.  It produced the agility to change direction with vigour and vitality.  What’s more, with a smile.  

As you shift from foot to foot, balance is found towards the destination.  Your challenger, who hid the prize from you in the first place, is supporting you to find it!

However, they will not find it for you.  

That would take away the joy in the discovery of the prize.  Yet, it is a relational game, relying on trusted collaboration of both players.

It was never fun to play if the hider wasn’t clear and straight about where the prize was.  The clarity and trust in the communication was vital.  

Otherwise, why would we want to play a game without a clear purpose?

As children, we discovered the path to find the purpose of the game.  Through play, we did more of what was hot and learned from what was cold, letting that go effortlessly.

We even found that the game worked in multiple, complex dimensions.  Sometimes the purpose was near.  Sometimes far.  Often hidden within, above, behind or below something else. It was actually less fun if it was too easy.

Trying to navigate change in the workplace?

Try using variants of this game to inspire a simple, powerful sense of play into the process. Bring it back to what it felt like as a child to enjoy receiving feedback in support of purposeful action.

"How close do you feel we are to achieving our purpose? Hot, hotter, cold, colder?"

What you hear and how you respond will support you in calibrating the next step for those seeking to work purposefully.

This can also be useful for in-the-moment requests for feedback to peers, direct reports or your manager on how they are experiencing working with you, as you offer a safe framing.

"How are you experiencing our work together right now? Too hot, too cold or just right?"

What you hear and how you respond will support you in developing a mutually enjoyable path to collaborate purposefully.

This approach provides deeper clarity of the reality of where we are right now.  Which is the starting point for effective, meaningful and relational change.

One step at a time.


A big thanks to James for allowing us to share his blog. 

James is an executive coach and is head of AoEC Switzerland. Prior to joining the coaching profession, James enjoyed a 15-year international career in banking and has been involved with managing risk, sales, relationship management, team leadership, board directorship and surviving the financial crisis.