Certain things, they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone.
― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
I remember reading the above sentence during my childhood. I can vividly picture my youthful imagination picking up intangible things and putting them in a velvet lined case for safe keeping. What people, places and things would go in the case and forever stay as they were? Looking back, I know that is not how life works, or even how I would like it work, but the desire to protect things as they are when change happens still surfaces. When I find myself polishing the glass case in my mind’s eye, I now know what it means … Do you?
Paying Attention to The Curve
I have worked with organizations facing change all over the world, across many business sectors, and geographical boundaries. Healthy organizations pay very close attention to Change Management. One thing they all have in common is their reaction to the change process. I have used the work of William Bridges from his book Managing Transitions to help leaders frame organizational transition for decades. Here is one of the slides I use in my work with business leaders.
While many people devour business literature on “managing change” one thing often overlooked is the fact that change is an external, situational event. Transition is the psychological process people experience as a result of a change event. Learning to manage the intrinsic transition is the only way to outwardly, authentically embrace, or help others embrace, change.
Making a Personal Connection to Change
Just after I rang in 2017, someone instrumental to my business, announced her retirement. Paula has been with me for over eight years, in many capacities, and her contributions are immeasurable. She gave me plenty of time to find a replacement and did all the right things in communicating this change. Even so, as I internalized the change, and comprehended the transition, I panicked. Why me? What now? Maybe if I don’t do anything, it won’t happen. Maybe she’ll change her mind. Maybe…
I walked into a meeting in February to facilitate a group of senior leaders through a major transition. I gave them an assignment, and was going through my materials that had been perfectly prepared by Paula, after traveling to the venue using travel arrangements made by Paula, dotted with materials delivered by Paula, and feeling that familiar pang as her announcement surfaced aggressively in that moment.
As the team plotted themselves on the transition curve, I looked up and knew exactly where I was in relationship to my own change event and precisely what I needed to do. I knew there was a lot of work ahead of me to bring someone new on board, but in that moment, I let go of replacing her and stepped into the unknown. The confusion was still swirling but I knew, from the work I had done so many time for others, that something new would emerge when I was ready…
We resist transition not because we can’t accept the change, but because we can’t accept letting go of that piece of ourselves that we have to give up when and because the situation has changed. -William Bridges
I am grateful to my work for its power to help others while also providing a framework for my personal growth. Every time I step into a transition versus resisting a change, I get stronger, shattering the glass cases in my path as new doors swing open.
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