Change and Transition: How are you managing?

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, is quoted as saying "change is the only constant in life." This is something I have used and shared with others when faced with unexpected change or transition.  Being mindful of this fact helps us all accept what we cannot change and move forward with a bit more ease.  It's a practice that requires a sense of, and commitment to, one's self-awareness.  So I ask, can you count the number of changes that have occurred in your life, personally or professionally, over the past week or month? Whether you are consciously aware of it or not, something is different. What changed and more importantly, how are you managing?

If you are reading this blog post, chances are you have experienced some sort of unexpected or unwanted change and have felt the uncertainty or frustration that comes with change and transition.  Keep in mind that stress also accompanies change with positive intentions or outcomes.  Intellectually, we know that acceptance and adjustment are vital to managing stress associated with change.  However, grasping and dealing with these emotions often presents the biggest challenge.  William Bridges, a change and transitions thought leader, left us with a model to help move through change and transition with more control and ease.  His theory is based in the understanding that 1) change is situational and just happens, and 2) transition is psychological.  Bridges offered a three-phased model to help people accept and move on.  

William Bridges Model of Change and Transition

William Bridges Model of Change and Transition

The Bridges Model defines change as an external event that requires some sort of action and transition as the emotional response to include perception, feelings, and attitude toward that change. Three distinct phases help clarify what’s happening and what to expect, which may provide encouragement through the process.  Phases of the model are: 1) Endings, 2) Neutral Zone and 3) New Beginnings.  Bridges suggests that being able to experience the emotions and uncertain characteristics of each phase builds strength and confidence, which is preparation for upcoming or ongoing changes in life.

The first phase carries feelings of loss, hostility, anger or depression.  Appropriately named Endings, it involves letting go, a difficult course of action for most.  Mourning the loss of the status quo and being able to vent are crucial to moving beyond this stage.  If you are trying to help others through a transition, it’s important to allow them sufficient time to grieve while vigilantly focusing on the opportunities that change may yield.  Endings will end naturally, but keep an eye on those who have difficulty adjusting after an extended period of time.  The key to managing any negative emotion while in this phase is to recognize what you can and can’t control and to remain open to accepting the change. 

The second phase is the Neutral Zone.  Chaos and uncertainty prevail in this stage; the old way is no longer acceptable, and the new way has yet to be established.  Ambiguity decreases productivity and morale.  Ironically, creativity blossoms as people begin to brainstorm on possible alternatives and create opportunities for a new or different way.  If this is a workplace change, leaders must become the stabilizing force.  Emphasize what has not changed, focus on any short-term or familiar activities, and continue to share information—the more, the better.  If that information is confidential or not immediately forthcoming, share what you can and inform others of limits you may face.  Honest communication will ease anxiety and make unwanted news more palatable. Upheaval is natural in the Neutral Zone; stay with it as you move into the third phase, which is New Beginnings.

Evidence of New Beginnings is a renewed enthusiasm, a demonstration of acceptance for what has changed.  Productivity and morale begin to increase.  Because everyone arrives at this stage at a different pace, it’s imperative that the early adopters help others recognize what can and can’t be controlled.  It only takes a few stragglers to slow down the entire group.  Because people can be in more than one phase at a time, practice lots of patience and know that this too shall pass. 

Just as Heraclitus said, change should be expected. If you keep the Bridges model in mind, you’ll have help to manage yourself and support others during periods of transition. 


Change is inevitable, embrace and move with it!

It's a Matter of Trust

Trust.  What an elusive yet necessary quality needed for a productive existence.  Imagine for a moment how life might differ if people were able to function from a place of trust.  Just think of how it would feel to know that every interaction could be trusted.  Are you able to accept people, things or situations that may differ from what you currently know or believe? Consider how would it look or feel to exist in an environment or society where trust is the norm.  Is this idea conceivable to you, or is it far-fetched and unrealistic?

Our ability to trust is predicated on experience, mental models and beliefs.  When trust is readily given and received, chances are these patterns will typically continue.  On the other hand, when trust is violated, suspicion creeps in and progress is stifled.  Regaining trust once it's gone requires sincere intention, time to heal, forgiveness and a willingness to work toward a harmonious end for all concerned.  And despite our best efforts, there are times when trust never returns.  Disappointment, hurt, anger or any number of negative emotions connected with the lack of trust has a way of extending beyond those directly involved, wreaking havoc and causing harm.  If the outcome of distrust is so destructive, wouldn’t it be beneficial to find ways to foster trust?  Try two things: 1) understand what trust is and, 2) become aware of what you believe.

Your capacity to trust, particularly when it has been questioned, is worth investigating.  Here is a list that describes trust.  Take a look to see how many points with which you identify and practice.  Consider that trust is:  

  • Letting others know your thoughts, feelings and reactions and having the confidence that they will respect and not take advantage of you, nor spread what they hear indiscriminately.
  • Being confident enough to reach out for support when needed and believing others will respond.
  • Assuming that others will not intentionally hurt or abuse you should you make an error or a mistake.
  • Feeling confident enough to share your secrets and knowing they are safe.
  • Knowing that things are fine when there are disagreements and being assured that nothing can disrupt the bond between you and another.
  • Letting others into your life so that you and they can create a relationship built on an understanding of mutual respect, care, and concern.
  • Opening yourself up to letting others in on your background, problems, concerns, and mistakes with the assurance that you will not be judged or ostracized.
  • Placing yourself in the vulnerable position of relying on others to treat you in a fair, open, and honest way. 

 Do you see yourself in any of these points?  If you agree with most or some part of the descriptions, you are tapping into trust.  If your beliefs, behaviors and feelings are not in agreement on most of the points, some level of distrust exists.  Rather than judge yourself, recall examples when you lost trust in something or someone; reflect on what provoked negative emotions.  This may help you begin to identify reasons why trust is lacking.  It may be an uncomfortable thing to do, but it's worth the effort.  Give trust a try! 

Nuances of Networking

Networking, much like public speaking, is one of those skills that people either enjoy or abhor. When you consider the two skills, the differences are minimal. Think about it, one requires the ability to convey a message to many; the other requires conversing one-on-one or speaking with just a few.

That's about it. Both demand basic communication skills to have a modicum of success. Engaging others and the capacity to think, speak and respond appropriately along with a sense of empathy or compassion are among the must haves to be more comfortable in both. That's it! Your topic, and how it is constructed and delivered are secondary. If you keep this in mind, you'll find that public speaking and networking are not that daunting. You may even join the legions of those who love both! 

Get a new attitude, get out of your comfort zone, and pull yourself away from your old and comfortable colleagues to make a new connection by using two principles of networking:

1.     Have a mindful mindset

As with most things, the first step is to investigate why you feel the way you do about networking. Perhaps you're not comfortable with small talk, or maybe the idea of networking appears to be self-centered and manipulative. Well, think of small talk as simply that; little, friendly conversations.

There are many things you can do to become proficient at small talk including staying on top of current events, becoming versed in neutral topics and being observant of non-verbal cues.  

2.     Engage and exchange, don’t invade

What I have found works best is to have a genuine interest in other people and become skilled at questioning to engage (not invade) the other person.

The more interested you are, the more interesting you become. If by chance you are averse to networking because it seems self-centered, you've probably had one too many self-centered, one-way talks with someone whose life and interests are "all about themselves." Who wouldn't be turned off! True networking by definition is an exchange of information. It is meant to be an investment of time and energy that requires minimal effort.

Whether you’re a networking novice or an experienced schmoozer needing a refresher, if you remember these two tips, you’ll be hobnobbing with the best of them by your next social event.

 Shortly, I'll share even more ideas to strengthen your colleague connecting skills. In the meantime though, give the idea of networking some thought and practice.

  Closing ClueThe art of small talk reaps large rewards!