When I’m called in to help a leadership team think about change, I start with this conversation. Do it with me as you read this. Think for a minute about a time in your life or your work when you experienced a significant change. As you uncover the memory, remember how you were feeling about the change. What worried you? What did you feel uncertain about? What exhilarated you? What were you looking forward to as an outcome or result? Perhaps you are thinking about a time when you started a new job, took on a really challenging project, introduced a new accounting system, went back to school, worked with a coach to enhance your performance or implemented a new leadership team or expanded one. Now think about the things that supported you in managing the change. Who and what helped you make the transition and adapt to your new situation? Perhaps your list includes research, a plan, colleagues, friends, a coach, a positive mindset, an adventurous spirit, and patience, lots of patience!
Change is the moment when things are no longer the same. For example, change happened for me on Memorial Day 2016 when we put our home on the market and it sold in five days. Transition is our ability to accept the change with a welcoming heart and adapt to it in a positive and healthy way. I like to think of it like “the upheaval before the movers arrived, the storm as the movers disassembled our home and packed our work contents on their truck, and refreshing clarity when we begin to settle into our new home and develop new routines. In his seminal work on life and work transitions, William Bridges refers to the transition experience as being in the neutral zone (Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change 3rd Edition 2009 www.williambridges.com). When we’re in that space it can feel as though the ground is unstable, making next steps tentative. It can feel as though choices are limited, narrowing the field of vision around options and opportunities. It can feel as though there is no end in sight, that there will never be a new normal.
Truth is the ground is stable with small steps one at a time. Once the change happens, there are seemingly a million moving parts in the transition. This is a great time to keep a list, especially in a format you can keep adding to, and work the list. Make a little time each day to form a game plan and implement it. The action of adding and crossing things off your list creates a sense of accomplishment and decreases feelings of uncertainty. It restores an important sense of internal control.
Truth is there is always another way and another opportunity. A period of change is a great time to go exploring, ask a lot of questions, listen to others’ experiences, and try out different things. For example, if you haven’t set up a new office in a number of years and now you have to, you have a blank sheet to start your planning. What you come to realize is that the choices for desks, chairs, cabinets and equipment is infinite. Comparison shopping with a healthy amount of skepticism turns out to be a best friend along with frank conversation with vendors. The ones who really want your business will work hard with you. And there is the added benefit of creating new relationships along the way.
Truth is difficult transitions eventually find their way to a steady state where everything that was in flux settles. New systems, new procedures, new processes and new practices begin to take shape in repeatable routines and all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. Sometimes transitions happen in a number of phases with different unknowable time frames. This is a great time to create temporary routines that restore a sense of stability and knowing. As new pieces of the puzzle fall into place you can adjust temporary routines into more permanent ones. An important key here is to acknowledge and communicate what is temporary and when it shifts to being permanent.
Change is a core dimension of leadership. Here is a reminder of seven mindsets or lenses every leader can choose from to bring your best self to managing change. We’ve adapted these lenses from the Energy Leadership framework developed by Bruce Schneider (www.ipeccoaching.com) using our recent move in the example. A leader’s default mindset – where the leader goes first in their thoughts – influences how confidently and quickly they can effectively navigate the upheaval of change and lead from a positive productive place.
Options 3 through 7 open perspective and connect leaders to various pathways of opportunity. Options 5 and 6, especially as the default, offer leaders a way to manage change with an open, courageous heart. Option 5 makes a connection to trusting conversation and collaboration, to realizing as a leader that you never have to embrace challenge alone. Option 6 makes a connection to the leader’s intuition and new experiences that benefit them and ultimately others as well. Option 7 affirms that the choices we make and the experiences we have, no matter what, is what living a full life is about.
Consider what small and big changes are in your near future. What experience with change in the past can help you prepare for the next change? What steps will you commit to take to make your next change your next great adventure?
Managance Consulting & Coaching is on a mission to ignite passion and energize opportunity in association and other nonprofit organization work places. www.managance.com Denice Hinden, PhD, PCC, President and her team inspire leaders and teams to their next level of leadership and develop more trusting “we-centered” organizational cultures with transformational leadership development and engaging strategic thinking. Denice is Certified in Conversational Intelligence®. Do you have an idea you would like to explore. Contact Denice to schedule a complimentary discovery conversation – firstname.lastname@example.org – 866-481-2290.
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