Crossing the threshold into the future

In a world filled with change, it is often not the physical changes people find difficult but rather the emotional letting go of the way the world used to be.

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 turn to face the future.

The second is to step forward into the unknown: leaving the security of the old world behind and taking the risk to try to build something new. This is the chrysalis stage between the caterpillar and the butterfly.

As people cross this ‘Threshold’ stage they may find themselves feeling uncertain, disoriented, lonely, vulnerable, or afraid. Your role as a leader here is to provide structure.

In a churning world this can’t be structure that is rigidly imposed: it has to be something that people create, develop, and internalise for themselves.

There are two ways you can accelerate this:

— First, bottom up, you can encourage people to find their own ways of coping with uncertainty, by developing their capacities for inner leadership. Teach them especially to centre and ground, make sense of their situations, and find the opportunities that exist in any crisis. Then they will be able to manage their own uncertainty and find more solutions to it.

— Second, top down, you can provide structure by putting in place the culture of your future vision. Management guru Peter Drucker wrote that, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” The Threshold phase brings you the opportunity to put that culture into place, by defining the values that will make your vision succeed, why they matter, and how you will put them into practice.

The outer world may be churning but the tools of Inner Leadership enable you to create stability, both for individuals and organisations.

One day you will look back at the lack of structure in the Threshold stage as a time of freedom. So treat the ambiguity of this period as an opportunity for innovation, exploration, and adventure. Focus on applying values and inner leadership. Switch from asking “Are we there yet?” to “Are we heading in the right direction?” Experiment!

In the Threshold stage all things are possible.

Adapted from Inner Leadership.

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