Ch – ch – ch – changes!
As the cliché would have it, the only thing that’s constant is change. Whether you’re in-between roles, transitioning from one position to another within the same company, or on the receiving end of unwanted changes, learning how to navigate transitions smoothly and effectively is a key skill.
So – when you find yourself facing a transition, what should you do? What shouldn’t you do? And how can you make the most of a crisis and come through a transition period stronger than you went in? Here are a few tips and ideas to make the process as positive as possible.
It’s a process not an event
Google “Managing transitions” and you will be presented with a raft of diagrams about the process of change. There’s a reason for this – what can begin with a defined start point (a promotion, redundancy or a change of boss for example) may not have a defined end point. With any transition, you need to let go of something that’s known, experience the ambiguity of not knowing before accepting the new reality and the opportunity that it brings. In general, the quicker you can let go of what’s gone, and focus on the opportunities in the future, the easier you will find it to move smoothly towards opportunities. Don’t hang on to the past.
Find your true north
If you know broadly where you’re heading, it’s easier to deal with short-term instability and disruption. Think of a ship in a storm – it might get temporarily blown off course, but in the longer term it will still be navigating towards the same destination. Treat transitions in the same way. Decide what your mid to long term goals and objectives are, keep your focus on them and take baby steps to take you towards them. Keep your eye on the prize.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
It’s normal to feel waves of emotion after a significant change: anxiety, relief, anger and grief amongst many others. Try not to be too reactive to the day-to-day emotions that you feel. If you are feeling overwhelmed by what has happened then some constructive ways to deal with overwhelming emotions include diary keeping, discussing with a trusted friend or colleague or just simply following a simple breathing exercise until the moment has passed. Concentrate on getting the basics in place: sleep, hydration and exercise. Lay off or moderate booze and caffeine. Treat yourself kindly.
Treat it as a learning experience
With any change comes the opportunity to develop. An event that may seem like a crisis at the time is inevitably the opportunity to learn about yourself: your resilience, core skills that you can draw on and assumptions that help or hinder you from moving on. Many highly successful people identify these “Crucible Moments” as being key to their confidence, development and later success. It’s often in crisis, or when facing unexpected challenges, that we can learn the most. Be open to the opportunity.
Take charge and manage the change
It’s impossible to avoid change. In a VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – if not welcoming then at least being able to manage change effectively, and managing the elements that you are in charge of, will help you to emerge from transitions stronger. Take the opportunity and time to reflect on what you want, and plan a realistic route to get there. Lean into your social networks for advice and support. Consider getting some professional coaching, if you are really lost or if the change you are embarking on seems too daunting. You are not the first, nor the last, to face this.