How To Stay Grounded And Recalibrate During Transitions
“Change is something that happens to people, even if they don’t agree with it. Transition, on the other hand, is internal: it’s what happens in people’s minds as they go through change. Change can happen very quickly, while transition usually occurs more slowly.” -William Bridges
When I moved across the country from Oakland, CA to Austin, TX, I felt the impact of big changes, transitions, and uncertain times. Taking a leap of faith (and moving after 12 years in the Bay Area) required courage. Sticking with my plan, when it got difficult, required perseverance and bravery.
I found myself looking for examples of leaders who persevere during uncertain times with brave leadership, and I kept hearing Margaret J. Wheatley’s words in the back of my mind.
In her book titled, Perseverance (a fantastic book published by Berrett-Koehler in 2010), she says “It is never too late to be brave”. She goes on to say, “Bravery is a choice. It is a decision to enter into the fray no matter how illogical and crazy things are. Even as our friends, family and common sense recommend that we stay away.”
Bravery, especially during intense changes, crises, and transitions, is a choice.
We get to choose. To trust our intuition, harness our energy, and focus on healing within, rather than focus on the “withouts” and/or external factors influencing us. We get to choose to be brave daily – in the ways that we show up for and with ourselves as well as others.
However, some people may feel we weren’t “trained” to be brave. It’s a muscle that must be intentionally flexed and used over time. I know I wasn’t very practiced at it until very recently.
Neuroscience reminds us that our brains are hardwired to protect us, constantly searching for signs of danger, with the first choice being fight or flight.
We’re wired to avoid change and discomfort.
Yet, our souls call to us to explore, to learn, to be just, compassionate, empathetic, and loving.
We all know change is inevitable. It is part of evolution. Even as the media paints a picture of a very insane, irrational, aggressive world, the contrast it provides is awakening us to something more. We can do better. We can be intentional, strategic, more loving, and more brave.
Maybe you are feeling the call to take the lead and be more brave.
Perhaps you feel the injustice, or an imbalance, and you find yourself wanting to be a part of the solution instead of the problem?
In previous blogs, I have written about blind-spots and intention deficit disorder. Now, let’s focus on what it means to lead with bravery through transitions.
William Bridges’ work has been formative for my understanding of this topic. When my leadership coach at the National Equity Project introduced his work to me seven years ago a big lightbulb went off, as it helped me make sense of what I was experiencing as a leader. Bridges offers many powerful reflections in his brilliant book, and this visual is particularly resonant:
So what do we, as leaders, do to navigate transitions?
The first question we need ask ourselves is:
Where am I (and/or my organization) in terms of transition? Am I in the beginning, middle or towards the end of a big cycle of change?
If you are at the beginning, emotion is high, everything is new, overwhelm and confusion can be omnipresent. In this phase, normalizing those emotions is key. Also, setting boundaries, showing honesty, empathy, compassion and listening (to yourself and others) are the greatest gifts you can offer as a leader. It is okay to say you don’t have all the answers, because you can still convey confidence that, as a team, the answers will arise.
If you’re in the middle of a transition, check in and see where everyone is in their own state of mind. Are there unstated fears or concerns? Are there systems for sharing information? Are there patterns of behaviors that are productive and counterproductive? Whose and what needs are and aren’t being met?
If you’re at the end of a transition, take a pause and reflect at how far you and the organization has come. Capture the lessons and insights that have come out of this transition. Communicate next-steps clearly, and recalibrate expectations and intentions moving forward, based on the patterns/trends/data observed or experienced. Like a broken bone that often heals stronger in the place of the break, an organization that survives a big, difficult transition is often stronger as a team.
Throughout the process, offer compassion and normalize emotion – both for yourself and for your team – to feel the full range of emotions that inevitably will surface. Soften the rigid edges a bit to allow uncertainty to unfold into wonder and curiosity. Encourage your team to also practice softening. We are all often our own worst critics. In times of transition, awareness is important, but so is kindness and community.
Finally, throughout the transition, maintain alignment. Pay attention to your ethical radar inside. If your heart is beating fast, palms are sweating, there’s a knot in belly, listen to that. If you feel contracted, something is askew. Take action immediately. Remember your core values. Discover the facts and act with integrity on those facts.
Transitions are not easy. And, we always have a choice on how we show up as leaders.
I’ll always be a work-in-progress. I’ll always keep these tools and tips in mind as I navigate new waters. I’ll be setting boundaries (saying no to the things that aren’t connected to my priorities, goals, and intentions), pacing myself, carving out time feel/journal/write, being gentle with myself, resting and listening to the signs my body is giving me, and communicating with my team–those are my priorities.
The S.P.A.R.K. Acronym helps us remember to stay fully present:
Remember to communicate with consciousness and awareness of blind-spots – of your own and those ingrained in your organization’s culture. Times of heightened emotion can lead to uncaring and unintelligent thinking, so it’s important to be mindful of the language we’re using.
Join me in maintaining a commitment to building and sustaining inclusive communities. Join me in lean into discomfort and staying courageously curious.
Your choices will create space and inspiration for folks on your team to do the same. This is how we evolve into a more inclusive and honest world.
And remember, it is never too late to lead bravely.
Brave leadership looks different in everyone’s context. If you would like support or thought-partnership on what brave leadership looks like during your transition, schedule a complimentary 20 minute Strategy Conversation with me here.
Also, I’d love to stay connected. Comment below and share reactions/questions/connections!
S.P.A.R.K. was founded in 2016 by Rachel Rosen, a seasoned facilitator, racial equity leadership coach, and LGBTQ advocate. S.P.A.R.K. offerings sit at the nexus of Rachel’s personal and professional passions, and she is on a mission to bring more empathy to the world, one conversation at a time. With a Masters from Stanford, and extensive training in leadership, coaching, team and organizational development, S.P.A.R.K. experiences are grounded in theory and practice. S.P.A.R.K. offers experiences that support leaders and teams to unleash their potential to facilitate powerful experiences, collaborate, and build trust.