In a world filled with change, it is often not the physical changes we find difficult but rather the emotional letting go of the way the world used to be and the taking on of new roles, identities, and ways of being.
These psychological responses are called ‘transitions‘. They come in three stages. The first stage is to Separate from the way the world used to be and then turn to face the future. The second is to step across the Threshold into the unknown, leaving behind the security of the old world and taking the risk of building something new.
Crossing the Threshold
The Threshold phase is the chrysalis stage between the caterpillar and the butterfly. Everything here is undefined.
As people enter this stage they can naturally find themselves feeling uncertain, disoriented, lonely, vulnerable, or afraid. The old world has gone but the new world has not yet been built.
Your role here is to provide structure — for yourself and then others.
In a churning world this structure can’t be rigidly imposed: people have to develop it for themselves, though inner leadership. But there are two things you can do to accelerate the process:
- First, bottom up, you can encourage people to develop their own inner leadership and become better at coping with uncertainty.
Teach them especially to centre and ground more deeply, make clearer sense of their situations, and find more opportunities in a crisis.
The more they can do these three things the less they will worry and the better they will respond to whatever happens.
- Second, top down, you can provide structure by putting the culture of your future vision in place.
Management guru Peter Drucker wrote that, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This Threshold phase of transition gives you the opportunity to put that culture in place.
Do this by defining the values that will make your vision succeed, why they matter, and the attitudes and behaviours that make them real.
This provides a framework that enables people to respond no matter what happens. It also immediately achieves half your vision (its culture).
One day you will look back at the Threshold stage as a time of freedom, so treat the ambiguity of this period as an opportunity for innovation, exploration, and adventure. Switch from asking “Are we there yet?” to “Are we heading in the right direction?” Experiment! In the Threshold stage all things are possible.
When did you last experience a major shift in role or identity? As you stepped into that new role did you experience any uncertainty?
Would it have been useful to know how to keep calm in a crisis, make clearer sense of new situations, and find more opportunities?
Would it have been useful to have had a clearer vision of what you were working towards and clearer values, attitudes, and behaviours to guide you?
Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.
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