How Transitions Are Managed

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Transitions are managed through understanding the phases and knowing where you are at in the process.  There is a terrific framework for transitions by William Bridges.  He describes the process in three very distinct and important phases: “Ending” “Neutral” and “New Beginning.”

Let’s explore the phases more thoroughly:

1. Ending: This is not necessarily about finality.  Think of this as a chapter in a book or a phase in life.  It is important that leaders identify this phase and help people celebrate successes, learnings and failures.  There are many methods to help people with the ending phase.  You could make time during operational or strategic meetings to talk about past successes to bring a season to a close.

I remember several phases in my career when I was intentional about the ending phase and when I was not.  In my previous role, I planned to have conversations of closure with each of my teammates.  This was about celebrating all that we had accomplished and thanking them for what they did together to create success.  It is no different than a high school open house or graduation ceremony where a life event invites time for reflection and celebration.

In my position out of college, I chose a more abrupt approach and never felt like I had closure.  It took me several months to process wins and learnings and it hindered my ability to really engage in the future.

2. Neutral: The neutral phase is when you feel like you are in two places at once.  I think of the time that you are in the parking lot with friends after a great dinner.  You are not at the table eating and you are not in the car going home.  You are in fact somewhere  and that is the parking lot.  It helps to be completely at the parking lot on your way to the car and ending the evening with energy and positivity.

In work, this is where you are 1 or 2 weeks from your last day and are moving toward a new position.  It creates anxiety because there are critical items for you to complete in your current work and there is the excitement of the new.  This is when you have to practice being present with greater focus and resolve.

The neutral phase is easy to rush through because our anxiety level is so very high.  Remember what our friend Tolle shared that we need to be able to accept uncertainty because during that time creativity can begin to erupt.  Embrace the unknown and stay present.

3. New Beginning: In the new beginning phase we become secure with new circumstances and we are optimistic about the future.  If we have been intentional in the “End” and “Neutral” phases we move into the new beginning phase with great confidence and creativity.

Our risk in the new beginning phase is that we become disenfranchised with what we expected and may inadvertently disconnect.  Stay the course and be flexible with the new adventure.  Chances are you will create new habits and find a new pathway for your skills, vision and abilities.

Leaders it is your job to walk your people through these phases.  Imagine if you have been recently promoted or hired to move the business to the next chapter.  There is a good chance that your people are smack dab in the middle of the end phase.  In fact, if you do not help them bring closure to that phase they may struggle to engage in the future.