Making Positive Change and Weathering the Transition (03/14/2018)
A few summers ago we left a beach house that we had occuppied with many friends for almost 20 years. Our friends moved on and all of a sudden it was just the two us in this big, old, moldy beach house. So, we decided it was time for a change and found a small, modern, apartment with all the amenities just a walk away. We packed up all our stuff and said goodbye. It was the right thing to do but very unsettling The emotional struggle resulting from what was a positive and pragmatic change was palpable.
Change managers will tell you that even if you do everything perfectly in terms of establishing the guidelines and action plan for your change initiative; transition can be difficult and emotionally trying. William Bridges, a recognized authority on managing change in the workplace, notes that change is an external event such as a new practice, mandate or structure of some sort. Transitioning is another thing all together. It's internal - a psychological reorientation that we need to navigate before the change can work. According to Bridges (Source: Managing Transitions), this takes longer and is more challenging as people must travel through three separate and unsettling processes:
- Ending - which creates a feeling of loss and sadness
- Neutral Zone - feeling uncertain, confused and possibly fear, and
- New Beginning - we begin to feel hopeful and enthusiastic and see the possibilities.
In any change initiative whether professional or personal, it 's important to create a thoughtful and well-defined change management plan. However, underestimating the emotional impact of the transition to the "new state" or "desired goal" is a mistake. It's important to recognize, accept and understand the feelings that you, your colleagues and/or your family are experencing - especially in the neutral zone where uncertainty can create a degree of anxiety. The key to successful navigation is to use one, i.e., "the change plan" to balance out the other, i.e., "the transition".
The key takeaways are these:
- As you end, allow yourself to feel loss but avoid emotional quicksand where paralysis takes hold. Make a mental list (or written one if that helps) of the ways that this change can work for you.
- In the neutral zone be daring. At this point your change is not fully operational so think about how you can change up actions to be more creative or bring more of your personality to the desired outcome. Explore alternative approaches to getting the change done. This will give you more clarity as you transition and relieve anxiety around the unknown.
- In terms of the new beginning phase as you start to see the possibilities of the impending change, think beyond it. Don't limit the possiblities to this one event - think of how this change initiative enables future, positive change.
Guess what? We've been in the new apartment for the last four spring/summer seasons and are happy to report that our rockers fit nicely on the new deck and that we have plenty of closet space if common sense prevails. We have placed the right amount of planters and I can hear the ocean, feel the breeze, feed the birds, and see the beautiful night sky. Most importantly, sorting through many years of collected "stuff" provided a sense of freedom. We are more flexible and nimble and can see the next change if we choose to pursue it. I do, however, reflect on the wonderful times that we had with our many housemates in the old house. We left the house - but kept the memories. That makes me happy.
I use change management models and business coaching to help you make the most out of your change experience. While we are all special and one of a kind, change journeys often take a predictable path. Acknowledgment of your feelings in transition while thinking about movement through the change and next steps creates a balanced dynamic for a successful outcome. Contact Beth for more information.
It's St. Paddy's day season and like all good and true Irishmen I have my celebration mapped out for the next several days! Erin Go Bragh to all and have a wonderful and most anticipated Spring. Be happy and safe until we talk next month!