Count Up Your Transitions
When were you at your best? Jot down memories where you were energized and enthusiastic. What were you doing then? Imagine creating more of those welcoming moments. I bet some of them were during a transition.
I decided to count up the transitions that I have had over my career and it is well over 15 when I look at the change in roles and responsibilities as well as new culture, organizations or starting my own company. Each change required a shift in mindset and a deeper understanding of me. I was impatient at times and wanted the answers much faster than they came to me.
I recall a very big transition which was to leave corporate America and figure out what was next. Although this was many years ago, I recall it vividly. I had been in the career consulting business and focused on helping others with their story but I had not thought about my own story. Have you ever been in the pace and groove of your work? You try to convince yourself that it is all right. Over time, you realize it doesn’t feel right. It was welcoming at first but you start to ask yourself questions about your new perspective or direction and whether you are still learning.
Fortunately, I was asking those questions and was introduced to LifeLaunch, a program of the Hudson Institute which is now called Life Forward. Back in those days it was a five day program focused on your inner talk, possibilities, feelings, prized memories and eventually goals and action steps. The concepts introduced were about reflection, revision, and renewal. It was focused on where you are today, where you want to go and how you will get there. There was a phase called “go for it” and being a results-driven person, I liked that phase. But, that is not where you start. The process begins with reflection and slowing down to think about dreams, passion, and interests and of course, purpose.
Whether you are making a job change or taking on a bigger role in your company or moving into the entrepreneurial world, the transitions we go through from one stage to another is a gift. They are exhilarating and they can also cause anxiety.
I was ready to create something new but had no idea how it would work out. That was stressful and exciting. This can happen when you are inside a company and have a role that you enjoy and then you hear of an opportunity that you can transition to with more responsibility along with a very steep learning curve. It is what you were looking for yet scary at the same time.
What I observe today is that the speed of transitions and personal change in our careers is so fast that there is little time to move through the changes and or the emotions. We need that in order to understand ourselves, what might accelerate our effectiveness or get in the way and how best to navigate an entirely new challenge. The people are different, expectations vary and the social norms might shift but you are not aware of that yet.
As you embark on your change, it may be that the rules have changed or the way to get things done is entirely different. You might have to navigate this on your own or if you are lucky, you will have a change “Sherpa” in your company. We are never really on our own and change does not mean you will be in “free-fall” as one of my clients expressed. However, I know that feeling of fear and internal second guessing that takes us down a path of non-constructive self-talk even during a positive expanded role. Slowing ourselves down to reflect, envision and then act is a human thing to do. Reaching out to your network is a human thing to do as well. Our company cultures are not great at slowing down.
Here are my suggestions on moving effectively on a wave of transition. 1. Celebrate - Did you celebrate the ending – you may have just accepted a promotion in your company and moving on to a bigger role. Did you celebrate and congratulate yourself for the accomplishment of getting this far? Take the time to do this with your team and acknowledge success. It is easy to let the voice in our head worry about the new job or jump to action with enthusiasm but take the time to breathe and celebrate this ending before starting a new beginning.
2) Welcome the new – Meet your team, get to know the business and how things work. Ask a lot of questions. Your focus is on learning rather than doing. We are all programmed to do but few of us focus on the learning part first. Step back to figure out the new landscape and what small steps of success will look like. Determine how your network will expand and who will be there to guide you. Sometimes it is not your immediate boss.
3) Envision – Listen to your internal voice but also gather the perspectives of others. I recall my voice telling me, “you are responsible and you will do the right thing.” I had to add something critical to that inner dialogue and that was “enjoy this adventure and trust yourself.” Not so easy to accomplish but it was my daily mantra.
4) Grow – The aging process is inevitable and I don’t recall ever thinking about it until my 40’s. That is when I realized mid-course corrections are a good thing and if we can look at our learning and development as part of our investment plan that is cumulative, than we are ahead of the game. It takes time to learn a new role. You have more decisional capacity than you realize so learning, risking and experimenting is part of the deal going forward. Your company will not drive that for you so you get to set that growth plan and course correct along the way.
What is your learning agenda for the next chapter of your life? Who are the people you would chose to have as mentors, friends, and guides? Build this into your plan and you will see that endings, celebrations, beginnings, and your feelings around change will be more aligned with your level of satisfaction and connection with those that matter. Do not hurry this process. It takes time and intention.