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3 Keys to Managing Transitions

Aug 17, 2007
You have just been promoted at work and you are excited and proud because you have been working towards this for a long time. At the same time, you are nervous about all the changes this will bring.

Change is defined as the "act, process or result of altering, transforming or modifying something." We all know change is inevitable and even though we may not like it, accept that it is part of life. Some changes we know are coming and we prepare for them. The change of seasons, the first day of school, and special holidays like Christmas or a birthday. Other changes may be thrust upon us, like losing a job, a major illness or loss of a relationship or a loved one.

How we cope and manage transitions contributes to our well being and ability to progress in life. Some people thrive on the idea of things changing frequently. They become excited about the idea of something new and different. It gets their adrenalin flowing. Others like things to stay the same, feeling more comfortable with routine and predictability. Perhaps they are fearful of doing things differently.

Over the years, work environments have become a constant source of change. It used to be that people would work for the same company for their entire career. Those days are gone. When new bosses or managers are hired, they often do a "clean sweep", bringing in their own people and introducing a different way of doing things. If you have ever spoken with people who are employed at a company undergoing a transition, you probably hear more complaints than excitement, particularly in the beginning. "How will these changes affect me?" "Will I still have a job?" "Will my income change and how will that impact my being able to provide for my family?" "Will I have a different boss and will my working relationships remain as good as they are now?" The changes may also represent what direction an industry is heading, as well as the company which employs you. The push has certainly been to do more with less time, resources and manpower.

So what are some strategies for managing transitions?

First how we think about the change contributes to the way we deal with it. If we assume the worst and our thoughts are very negative than we tend to not manage things so well. Having said that we do need an opportunity to mourn the loss of the way things were, without staying stuck. At the same time, it is important to consider 1 or 2 positive things that might occur as a result of a transition. You might be given a new responsibility that you have wanted to acquire or a task you found boring and uninteresting is no longer something you will have to do.

In the book "Who Moved my Cheese?" by Spencer Johnson, M.D., he uses the metaphor of mice looking for cheese in a maze. This represents what one wants in life and how you go about attaining it. The mice that were willing to adapt were successful in achieving their goals. Those who remained faithful to their routines withered and stagnated. Some companies use this book as an introduction to dealing with change.

We need to allow ourselves the time to experience our emotions. This middle phase allows us the time to process our feelings and reactions to the transition. This is very important and sometimes, companies in their eagerness to have staff accept change, don't allow enough time for discussion about the situation. The reality is that if this "feeling" phase is built in, than moving on to new beginnings becomes less problematic.

Third, think of a transition as an opportunity to learn something new. Cross pollination can be powerful and bring about lots of new possibilities. I am mindful of the summer camp industry. There is often a large turn over in camp staff (as counselors move on to other job experiences). Each camp has their own individual style of doing things, however a counselor or staff member who have been at other camps could make suggestions which enhance the over all functioning of a program. This is cross pollination.

The same is true for any company. When someone from another department or outside joins there is always the option of their providing exciting, perhaps better ways of doing things. We have to be willing to consider and experiment with possible new options. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained".

In summary, we need to accept and understand that change and transitions are part of life. Transitions start with an ending and move towards a beginning, with uncertainty and confusion in the middle. If we view this as a process, an evolution, then we might be able to manage it better. With any new activity or course, there is always a learning curve and we need to be patient with ourselves about mastering new things.

Copyright 2007 by Gail Solish.
About the Author
Gail Solish, provides Executive/Personal coaching to managers, directors and executives focused on workplace development and relationship management.
Claim your FR-EE e-course "Unleash Your Potential and Increase Productivity and Fulfillment" at http://www.ActualizeYourGoals.com
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