Friday, June 9, 2017
I recently read William Bridges’ Managing Transitions and co-facilitated a workshop with Bryan Garey on change and transitions for a cohort program I manage. In the book, Bridges talks about how change is transactional but transitions are psychological. He introduces a model that may seem paradoxical on the surface; namely, that transitions always start with an ending and end with a beginning. This premise makes sense when you think about it: a change, especially a transformational one, always starts by stopping the current practice and ends by starting the new. Furthermore, the ending represents a loss, including how people knew they were successful and how they were rewarded, and therefore it must be acknowledged and processed.
In between the ending and the beginning is the neutral zone, which is the land of the most opportunity, according to Bridges, and therefore is a powerful step in the transition process. This zone occurs after most of the loss has been acknowledged and processed, and the impact of the beginning is just starting to take shape. It’s when people can either start to get excited about the change or it’s when they decide they must resist the change. This zone is also when those who decide they aren’t on board with the change often decide to leave the organization.
I have been through many organizational changes in my career, and have seen the neutral zone first hand (though I didn’t know it had a name at the time). Based on my experience, the neutral zone is indeed the land of opportunity. Organizations who seize on the opportunity to show people what’s in it for them with regard to the change stand to reap the most benefit, both for the organization and the employee. Change is hard, to be sure. But, positively managing the transitions of change is what can make or break the change effort.
What changes are you currently experiencing? How are you managing the transitions? How do you think you’ll harness the power of the neutral zone?
Friday, May 26, 2017
There are many common quotes out there about change, like “The only person who likes change is a wet baby.” These quips make a point, but they paint change in a negative light. I prefer the quote attributed to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus:
This phrase reflects change as a constant, without suggesting that it is negative. A river continues to flow, moment to moment. From afar, it may appear to stay the same. But slight changes are taking place constantly, reshaping the river a little at a time. It might look the same each day, but if you were to leave and come back after a year or two, you will notice some significant differences.
Change is not bad, but it can definitely be difficult, especially when a large change happens in a short time period. Daniel Goleman, known for his work on Emotional Intelligence, suggests that we can actually change how we respond to change (see article here). We can learn to adapt by practicing mindfulness and developing our Emotional Intelligence.
The practice of mindfulness is about focusing on the present moment, rather than worrying about the past or the future. When we practice meditation or mindful breathing, we can ease our fears and concerns about what the change will bring, and return our thoughts to the present moment. If we recognize that change is happening all the time, all around us, then we are not so thrown off by it.
Goleman explains that adaptability is one of the competencies of emotional and social intelligence. This skill allows you to “quickly adjust to new situations and handle multiple demands.” When you are adaptable, you are more comfortable with uncertainty. Emotional and social intelligence can help us better understand ourselves and others, so that we can more smoothly process change and help guide others through it.
One great tip that Goleman offers is to frequently seek out new situations and experiences. When you step outside your comfort zone, you expose yourself to uncertainty and learning. When you do this often, you become more adaptable to change.
When reading Heraclitus’ words, it is easy to focus on the river – the external thing that is changing around us. But the second part of the quote is very important: “he is not the same man.” We so often focus on the change itself that is happening to us or around us, but we often forget that we are changing too. We are learning every day and having meaningful life experiences that shape our perspectives. When we seek out professional development on topics like Emotional Intelligence, we can continue to grow and shape ourselves. We can increase our adaptability and better prepare ourselves for the many changes we will encounter.
Related CLE classes to help you grow and navigate change: