Transitions: Ride the Wave | David Couper Consulting


Transitions: Ride the Wave

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on March 19, 2020 9:50 AM
Transitions: Ride the Wave

Try getting a large group of people to move together in an orderly fashion. What will likely happen? It may be frustrating, uncomfortable, awkward, then suddenly, it all gets sorted. Dealing with change is different than transitions. Change is something that is thrust upon people, whether they want it or not. Transitions are what happens internally to those experiencing change. Change is easy. Transitioning can be uncomfortable.  


I've worked with change management in both large corporations and employees. The biggest issue around change? Dashed expectations.


There are plenty of changes happening because of the Coronavirus. Restaurants and bars are closing; plans canceled, trips delayed, markets are rocky, expectations dashed. Anxieties are running high, and none of us are quite sure what will happen tomorrow, let alone an hour from now. The situation in Wuhan appears to be under control. But here in the United States, we're in the thick of huge transitions around the way we work and live our daily lives.


So what can you do with a transition?


Be prepared.  Whether dealing with employees, bosses, or your family, the core truth of handling change remains the same. Let's use the example, such as preparing your child for the first day of a new school. How do you prepare them? You talk to the kids about the internal transition from where they were last year to where they are this year. How will that feel? What can they expect? You have probably read all the articles about getting kids ready – get them in a routine ahead of time, introduce them to kids in their class, talk about what going back to school will mean, ask them how they're feeling about this new change. Think about this example and then arrange how that preparation can be useful in other areas of your life.


But also be prepared to be unprepared.  Going back to our school example, you did everything right, but your kids are unhappy, miserable, and ready to quit even though last semester, they were happy as clams. 


What happened? Nothing. We had expectations, and they didn't work out. That happens all the time. Now we deal with what we're going to do next.


Clear time in your schedule to make room for a transition.   What we most neglect in handling change is time to adjust. Humans think they can just change with the flip of a switch. But you must give you and your organization the same amount of time to adapt to change as a child to a new school.  


Celebrate the first day of the new change.  This concept may feel odd when a change has a negative connotation, such as a beloved coworker leaving or what people perceive as an impossible new metric. What could be a possible upshot of a new coworker or new policy?


We do a lot of planning, a lot of trying to control situations, and making sure things go right. Unfortunately or sometimes, fortunately, things don't always go according to our plan.


I'll never forget my first job; it was in Japan. I was excited about this adventure. I prepared, even took Japanese classes. I had met other people who had been in Japan, and I knew what to expect. On my first day, I met my new boss. He took me to my apartment and showed me the supermarket. I didn't buy anything because I knew that he would take me out to dinner. That was, after all, the custom, or so I had been told. I was surprised when he left me. Hungry, I took myself out to a restaurant, walked in, and sat down. The waiter came to ask for my order. But all I could remember in Japanese was that "I am a teacher."  


"I am a teacher" doesn't get you fed in a restaurant in Japan.


With transitions, we know that there will be confusion, uncertainty, as well as excitement and anticipation. And those feelings can change overnight. Find peace with whatever comes next. Ride the wave instead of resisting it.


Wherever You Go, There You Are


We must give ourselves time, be prepared to be unprepared, and be OK with learning. It's not about being right or wrong.  


And why is that hard? Because we have expectations. We judge ourselves. We have to be a good parent. But what if the kids aren't happy? Everyone feels the need to make sure everything is perfect at all times. It's a hard place to be. A better place is to be? I don't know all the answers right now, but I am willing to learn.


Remember, we are all doing the best we can. And that's really just fine.  

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