Today is International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women around the world.  And a further reminder to press forward and progress gender parity.  International Women’s Day encourages us to:

  • Maintain a gender parity mindset
  • Challenge stereotypes and biases
  • Forge positive visibility of women
  • Influence other’s beliefs and actions
  • Celebrate women’s achievements

Every year in our business we make a commitment to one of these key areas to specifically focus on in our own sphere of influence.  This year we have chosen “Forge the positive visibility of women”.

However, as women, we sometimes deliberately want to be less visible than our male counterparts or indeed other female contemporaries. Many of us lack the self-confidence we feel we need to become more visible and can sometimes do this through subtle behaviours such as choosing to dress in a way that says “I don’t want to be seen” or taken seriously.

With the boundaries of work wear often blurring into our “downtime” wardrobes – dressing to be visible in a positive way can be a challenge (or indeed a headache) to be avoided.  Yet we all know the importance of first impressions and sadly they can make or break our success.  You’d think it would be simple; we do it every day – but I’m sure this message will resonate with many of you. If only we could take the headache out of this daily habit.  It was certainly something I was keen to do being a busy working mum running around meeting new clients, coachees and participants on a frequent basis.  Which leads me to introducing our new guest blogger, Gemma Fox, Founder of Plume Boutique, Marlow, Bucks.  Read on to hear what Gemma has to say:

When Carrie Stockton, Founder of Change Gear and one of my wonderful and super stylish regular customers asked me recently to contribute a few words to the change-gear blog I jumped at the chance.

Having set up my own independent fashion retail business 12 years ago and in that same period built up an extensive network of fashion intrigued females it seemed like the logical next step to have a conversation with Carrie about how our paths may cross on a business level too. A year ago I changed the business model of my independent, Plume, from a stand-alone large store open 7 day’s a week and with extensive window frontage on the high street in Marlow Bucks to a more focused and exclusive personal shopping set-up, in line with changing shopping trends and customer needs. The result is a specialist Private Shopping Showroom nestled in a gorgeous little building right off the high street but still available to all of my regulars who have been visiting the store for years and relying on me to style outfits based on their individual lifestyle requirements.

As word has spread about the attraction and appeal of the Private Shopping Showroom I have found myself naturally branching out to a more “corporate” customer – I use the term hesitantly as fashion in business is changing very fast with many medium and large businesses relaxing their dress code and small business owners increasingly adopting a style that is still smart but a lot more casual whilst still being effective. Enter the phase of relaxed tailoring! This is a style that I am creating with my customers on a daily basis, for their work life, for networking events, for business trips and client meetings and it definitely requires more effort than throwing on a dark suit and crisp shirt BUT once you learn the formula this look becomes like a uniform and your go-to style as a woman in business today.

I work with ladies of all ages, shape, colour and purpose and each of them are unique which makes my job so exciting and rewarding, but at the same time their fashion concerns can be very similar, and I regularly hear these statements –

  • I don’t have time to go shopping!
  • I have the time but don’t enjoy clothes shopping
  • I am stuck in a style rut and need help
  • I don’t really know what suits my shape
  • I’ve gone through a change in circumstances (baby, divorce, new job etc) and my wardrobe isn’t relevant anymore.

There are so many considerations to take on board when choosing the right key pieces for your wardrobe and many of us could benefit from some style guidance so that’s where I step in, in a nutshell I take the stress out of clothes shopping and give my customers the confidence and positivity purely through their wardrobe choices to go forward and conquer! There is nothing more satisfying for me than providing customers with the essential tools to create a winning style that can often be life and career changing.

And the bit I often forget is how natural styling other women is for me, like a 6th sense, so I feel it’s my privilege to showcase this ability with customers and in many cases transform negative mindsets based on previous shopping disasters into positive and empowered outlooks.

When new customers come to see me we have an initial 10 minute consultation to establish their personal lifestyle needs and to understand their wardrobe buying behaviour. I almost always raise these suggestions and questions –

How do you feel about your wardrobe? – if it doesn’t give you instant sentiments of joy and excitement something needs to change (e.g time to de-clutter/ re-organise, update)

Get to know your body shape, are you a pair or an apple? What are your best bits? What are the bits you don’t like? (We all have them)! Start to filter your fashion choices according to you, not your friend/ instagram idol/ that actress whose style you love

Do you have a good idea of the colours that suit you best? Most people instinctively choose colours they are meant to wear but often have one or two that are definite no no’s (black, white, yellow) and the wrong colour can make you look drawn, pale and downright unwell. I have a good instinct for assessing customers’ correct colour palette too.

Buy a few good fashion mags to get an idea of what the new season trends are – its more important to dress your shape and according to your colour palette than to cover fashion fads but useful to have a few key accessories to keep your style looking contemporary and fresh.

Now try on pieces that are totally out of your comfort zone – a jumpsuit, a cropped wide leg trouser, a skirt that shows your knees, a block heel boot and forget for a moment about your personally inflicted mental fashion constraints you’ve subjected yourself to for years (possibly based on something your mother/ teenage daughter/ old boyfriend once said that has given you an unrealistic dose of body dysmorphia)! It’s time to liberate and reinvent yourself while in that changing room!

Above all HAVE FUN!


And so with this advice to ponder I will leave you to consider how you can make yourself or your female colleagues feel more visible in the workplace.  As Gemma has intimated, dressing can be an enjoyable experience and lift your confidence back to where it should be.

I’m also delighted to confirm that Gemma will be partnering with the Change-Gear team, supporting some of our clients in the corporate world in personal confidence-enhancing image consultations.  Please contact hello@change-gear for more information on how Gemma can help you.  And if you’d like to visit Gemma at her boutique she can be reached at Tel. 08450 038950 or visit .

In the meantime we’d love to hear about any initiatives you may have towards “pressing for progress”.

Happy IWD to all



In its simplest form storytelling is a connection of cause and effect. A narrative helps us make sense of the world around us. In fact, our informal conversations are dominated by stories; researcher Jeremy Hsu found 65% of our conversations are made up of personal stories and gossip – “who did what to whom?

Great stories surprise us; they have the ability to spark emotions, whether it’s happiness, anger, trust or guilt. They have compelling characters. They make us think and make us feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that numbers and text on a slide with a bar graph don’t.  Fundamentally our brains are more engaged when listening to stories and studies show that when information is communicated in this way people will better relate to and remember it.

Story telling has been used successfully in brand advertising for years.  Guinness has come up with some great marketing stories such as their “Empty Chair” ad where a bartender leaves a pint of Guinness at an empty table every night.  No one sits at the table, and the woman shoots a dirty look to anyone she catches eyeing one of the empty chairs.  Without fail, the Guinness is there every night. It’s a powerful image that serves as a sign of hope for the bartender. But we aren’t exactly sure who the beer is for until the very end. Everything comes together when a soldier finally returns home to claim his Guinness.

Lego’s “Let’s Build” ad is another great example of storytelling in advertising. The ad features a father and son bonding over their Lego; it shows the two of them creating fantastic skyscrapers with their enormous Lego collection. For a second you forget that it’s advertising toys because all you see is the perfect home life parents and kids are always dreaming of. And so a story unfolds.

Although storytelling is a timeless human tradition, unfortunately it has become a lost art in many businesses. Instead of taking the time to craft captivating stories, most people in business create dreary Powerpoint presentations; you could say Powerpoint has killed our ability to tell good stories, and this is a habit we need to change.

However, a word of warning! – storytelling works on a spectrum – at one end you have BIG stories – like legends, epics and fairytales – at the other end you have small stories such as examples, recounts and anecdotes.  When starting out in storytelling it’s best not to try too hard – start small with your stories until you get more confident.  And try to build a bank of stories – funnily enough they don’t always pop in your head when you need them.  In the meantime here are a few of our top tips to help you on your way:

 Surprise your audience

When you set out to create your story, it’s always good to start by revealing an important fact or detail that isn’t common knowledge or includes an unexpected turn of events. Try to hook your audience by sharing something that no one would expect because when it comes to storytelling, predictable plots won’t engage anyone.

Get to the point

Although you need to hook people in, it is also really important to get stuck into your messaging as quickly as you can. Stick to relevant details if you want people to listen to your entire story, as most people don’t have the patience or the time to hang around! Choose two or three main points that people will actually care about and focus on those — things like money saved, number of users, growth over the years are all effective examples.

Think about your purpose

What’s the point of your story? Are you informing or teaching your audience, are you trying to sell them something or are you just engaging with them to make them feel inspired to act? Make sure you have a single message that you want them to take from your story.

Be honest

Everyone makes mistakes or does embarrassing things every now and then, but being honest about those less than perfect moments will make you and your message easier to relate to. Share those painful lessons you learned. Even the simplest things like a spelling mistake in a text can show your human side.

Overcome the odds

Talk about a few of the challenges you have overcome, such as rejection or setbacks. Tell your audience what you learned from each challenge, how it motivated you and inspired you to get better.

Don’t forget humour

Using humour will engage your audience and make your story more likely to be remembered and shared. Laugh at yourself or a situation you found yourself in, never at someone else. But do run it by a few friends or colleagues first, just to make sure it is actually funny as well as appropriate.

And finally … Hold something back

As well as the tips above about being honest and open, you shouldn’t reveal everything all at once. Keep people interested and wanting to come back for more by finishing on a cliff-hanger. Make sure all your content can stand alone but getting your audience to think you have something more that they need to hear will keep them hooked.

And on that note, I invite you to join us at our free breakfast seminar “Powerful Persuasion – The Art of Storytelling” on Tuesday 20th March at CitizenM Hotel, Tower Bridge, where the Change-Gear team will share with you their secrets on how to finesse this age-old skill.

To book your ticket please follow this link: ART OF STORYTELLING BREAKFAST SEMINAR

We look forward to seeing you there.



Ok.. who can name the singer of this blog title? Of course, it is the incomparable Barry White!  So, why have I chosen to write about a 70’s Love God? Well, it’s more about the part that music and lyrics play in our learning of new skills in both business and life. From creating memories, to taking us back to past times, to providing the backdrop to our lives; music can have a significant part to play.

Certain songs have the ability to transport me to specific times and places and relive a moment in glorious technicolour detail. I cannot hear a brass band without being jettisoned back to my childhood and the memory of my Grandad playing the big bass drum with the Langley Prize Band outside our house every Christmas Eve. I am a blubbering wreck at the sight and sound of a trombone or cornet!

As a designer of learning events, my challenge is to create multi-sensory environments to appeal to all participants’ learning preferences. Using visual tools/cues and physical movement are a few ways I can achieve a rich learning tapestry for attendees, but could using music help or hinder a learner’s experience?

There is certainly a weighty body of evidence which demonstrates that music can have a positive impact in education and treatment of illnesses such as Dementia. Music has been found to light up parts of the brain like a firework display and reconnect people to memories and abilities that may have been thought lost. Studies have demonstrated that music enhances the memory of dementia patients, and has shown that scores on memory tests improved when they listened to classical music. Chris Brewer, founder of LifeSounds Educational Services and author of the book Soundtracks for Learning, explains that music can help to hold our attention, evoke emotions, and stimulate visual images. “Students of all ages—that includes adults— generally find that music helps them focus more clearly on the task at hand and puts them in a better mood for learning,” says Brewer.

Many of the research studies suggest that playing music when engaged in a learning activity has an impact on “positive mood management” and that various styles of music are appropriate for different types of activities. For example, upbeat popular music to motivate learning, especially songs with lyrics that encourage positive thinking. However, when engaged in more reflective learning such as writing, or reading, instrumental music can help to sustain concentration. Classical music of the Baroque era, such as Vivaldi, Handel, Bach with musical pulses between 50 to 80 beats per minute helps to stabilise mental, physical and emotional rhythms. Music has been found to affect the neuro plasticity of the brain and slower baroques can create mentally stimulating environments for creativity and new innovations.

The case is certainly strong for incorporating music into a learning event, however perhaps a word of caution before facilitators and trainers rush to build their playlists into sessions. Tests on retention and transfer of knowledge and skills have also shown that irrelevant background music can lead to poorer student performance and can create a distraction for learners if it generates a negative emotional reaction. Just as we would with any piece of design work, if we intend to use music in our sessions, then we need to think about the needs of the audience and choose music that resonates rather than alienates and most importantly seek permission from the learners before launching our chosen tracks.

As I prepare to head to Edinburgh for a week of self-development, I am starting to think about my musical choices. As I do my evening homework, I want to create neural pathways that help me in the future to access the resources I have developed during the day – so to that end I am most definitely going to “Let the Music Play!”

If you would like to find out more about any of our development programmes please contact us at or call us on 07714 793669 we’d love to chat with you and maybe even hear about your favourite learning tunes.


It’s that time of year again where most of us are thinking about shaking off the past 12 months and setting ourselves up for a great one to follow.  I am most certainly guilty of an unashamed enthusiasm in January for any new regime and feeling positive that “this is going to be the year where I actually stick to the healthy eating and fitness regime, get more sleep, read more, do a digital detox etc. etc.” You know the drill.

So as the 1st of January came upon me, I sat down to write my goals in my new journal and started to think about what might make this a really different year for me.  Having unexpectedly lost someone very close to me at the end of last month I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to close the door on the year completely – or have it a little ajar to keep the memory of them alive for me.  That then got me thinking that perhaps the “new broom sweeps clean” mentality may not necessarily always be the best one.  Perhaps it is about holding on to what’s good from our pasts, letting go of what’s held us back and making space for learning how to improve what we need to, not what we feel we have to.

I started to think about a conversation I’d had with a friend at the weekend.  When I asked her whether she had any resolutions for 2018 she said “to drink less water” – I thought she was crazy until she added on “from plastic bottles”.  I immediately wanted to steal it.  I’m sure many of you have been watching David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II – as well as continuing to show us the beauty of the natural world it comes with an urgent message which we can no longer afford to ignore – the cost of global warming and pollution.  The programme raises a critical awareness of the immediate threats facing our oceans and underscores how much humans and the planet stand to lose if we fail to recognise and acknowledge the negative impact we are having on them.  It’s not a new message for us – but it’s such an important one.

Moving on to the plastic plague that is upon us, Greenpeace recently revealed that Coca-Cola unbelievably increased its production of throwaway plastic bottles last year by well over a billion. (As if you needed another good reason to stop buying fizzy drinks!).  Extreme environmentalists are urging companies to stop selling drinks in plastic bottles altogether whereas the more pragmatic are suggesting we make it easier for customers to use fewer plastic bottles.  A firm favourite of the Change Gear team is forward thinking Pret a Manger.  Pret have been fighting the “waste” battle for many years.  30 years ago, they started donating their unsold food to the homeless and today their initiatives include offering customers a 25p discount on hot drinks if they bring in a reusable cup. At the end of last year Pret introduced a trial in their three Veggie Pret shops selling reusable glass bottles alongside plastic bottles with filtered water stations enabling customers to refill their glass bottles.

Elsewhere, London’s Borough Market is to introduce free drinking water fountains as part of a new pledge to phase out sales of all single-use plastic bottles over the next six months. Selfridges stopped the sale of single-use plastic water bottles back in 2015.

The issue is gaining traction in the political sphere, with Defra Secretary Michael Gove confirming he will work with businesses to see how a drinks container deposit return scheme could work in England. Similar schemes have proved highly successful in Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, where recycling rates of containers are now above 90%.

My friend’s resolution was whirring round in my head.  When I got home I emptied my recycle bin to take a good hard look at what was in there – I was horrified by the amount of plastic bottles and food tubs I found.  I knew this was going to be my more important mantra for the year ahead – Use less plastic.  So how do you turn the mantra into action.  As usual making things a habit so that they stick (thank you Gretchen Rubin for your insights here) is a must.  Here are a few simple things I will be doing:

  • Carrying a reusable water bottle wherever I go
  • Taking my own coffee cup
  • Bringing reusable shopping bags to the supermarket
  • Carrying a fold up reusable shopping bag or two in my handbag at all times
  • Getting rid of all reusable cutlery and straws from my kitchen
  • Buying my fruit and veg from our local shop to avoid supermarket plastic trays

And of course, encouraging my friends and family to do the same.

I would love to hear from any of you out there reading this blog on your thoughts on the subject or to hear what you are personally doing to take action to help save our planet.  Let’s share this message urgently.

In the meantime, I wish you all a very happy, healthy and renewable 2018.


“Snow is falling all around us ……” well, it certainly has this weekend for most of the country. As I threw the curtains open yesterday morning I was greeted by a beautiful sight – thick snow on the ground and the park opposite my house looking like a set from “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Watching the falling snow my thoughts turned to a different type of snowflake; one that has generated a huge amount of column inches in the press recently – not the soft, white fluffy stuff but the human variety.

Much has been written in the press recently about the “Snowflake Generation” – the group of millennials who are often described as over-sensitive, work shy and possessors of an over inflated sense of entitlement. The term “Snowflake Generation” is thought to originate with US author Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 book, Fight Club, which contains the line “You are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake”.

While young adults in particular appear to take offence to the ‘snowflake’ label, the majority of adults also agree that the term is unfair and unhelpful and overlooks the significant stresses that our young people now face. Research by insurance firm Aviva found that 72 percent of 16-24 year-olds think the term is unfairly applied, while 74 percent think it could have a negative effect on young people’s mental health. The research also found that young people are more likely to have experienced stress, anxiety and depression in the last year.

We work with many different generations but one of my favourite groups to work with are the 16–24 age group and recent experiences have encouraged me to stand up to the critics and challenge the judgements and stereotypes peddled by the press. At the end of the Summer we facilitated a conference for nearly seventy new apprentices and we were blown away by their energy, positive attitude, thirst for learning and commitment to their new organisation and careers. Likewise, at the last set of employability workshops we delivered for the University of Essex, every student took a responsible, strategic approach to their work placement, setting specific goals to grow and enhance their already considerable skills.

So, instead of using derogatory terms about our young people, let’s celebrate what is good about this generation, who in my experience are overwhelmingly kind, humorous, creative, thoughtful and hardworking; who navigate their path through the minefield that is social media – something our generation never had to worry about. Personally, I can’t wait for my own “Snowflake” to come home for Christmas from her year-long placement with Jaguar Land Rover and have some down time; she’s achieved so much this year, it’s time to be spoiled by Mum – as long as she keeps her room tidy that is!!!

If you would like to hear about the work we do with Early Years Careers, please get in touch at – we would love to hear from you.