Challenged to Change
In a recent leadership development program for new leaders I was facilitating, we ended the day’s session with asking for reflections from participants. One person stated “Challenged to change”. It struck me, and I wrote it down because I know so many of us (myself included––big hand raised and waving over here) feel the same way. And yet, change is inevitable. It’s a part of life.
Probably like many of you, change I don’t ask for is the most challenging type of change. It could be anything from discontinuing my favorite lipstick color (it’s a thing…) to the Covid pandemic, and lots of stuff in between. Most of us resist change when we don’t feel part of the process, or it’s change we didn’t see coming, or we had limited to no participation in defining the change.
Enter William Bridges and his Transition Model. William Bridges (1933–2013) was an author, speaker, and preeminent authority on change and transition who transformed the way people think about change. He spoke about change as an external event or situation and transition as a psychological process people go through as they navigate and manage change. His work offered fresh and humane perspectives on how people approach transition, both on a personal level and in organizations and continues to be influential to this day.
The Bridges Transition model consists of Endings (the ending of what was), the Neutral Zone, and New Beginnings. As you can imagine, people experience lots of feelings in the Neutral Zone, when the Endings period is finished, but before everything is fully formed in the New Beginnings stage. In the beginning of the Neutral Zone, many of us experience denial, skepticism, anger, and stress. Empathy, feedback, and experimenting with new innovations can help during this phase. If we allow ourselves to feel those feelings of frustration and confusion, at our own pace we will begin to accept and eventually have hope, energy, and enthusiasm around the New Beginnings. It takes intentionality, support, and if it’s an organizational change that is transpiring, a solid transition management process.
Even when you do want to change, like the new leader in my workshop, change can still be a challenge. You have to be intentional. You must stay focused on what you want to experience on the other side of the change. Ask yourself a few coaching questions: What’s at stake? What will happen if I don’t change? How will I know I have changed? How can I get some accountability during this transition process (coaching, cough cough)?
So, when you are feeling challenged to change, consider the transition period and where you are in the Bridges Transition Model. Reflect on the coaching questions above. Allow yourself to flow through the transition curve at the pace that works for you.
As we begin to wrap up 2023 and look ahead to 2024, what changes do you need or want to make? Remember, if you get stuck, coaching can help.