Why transitions matter more than changes

transitionsWhenever someone starts out on a new project, a new job, or relationship, part of their identity shifts.

Changing identity is not always easy, so at the same time as you are working to build your new vision, you also need to be managing the inner psychological and emotional transitions that you and your team will be going through.

Some of these transitions will be large and others small, but they can all have a big impact on your ability to reach your goal.

Changes happen in the outer world. They involve new roles, new activities, new reporting lines. Transitions happen in our inner worlds. They are about who we are, our identities.

For example, following a company merger and reorganisation John and his team found themselves in a new place on the organisation chart. The changes involved were straightforward — John and his team could quickly adapt to the new location and the new technology they were being asked to use. What mattered more to them was the impact on their identities. Would their new role still be as central to the strategy of the firm? Would they be as close to the core decision-makers? What would be the impact on their status in their industry?

Changes are visible. Transitions are invisible.

Changes involve places, things, events, transactions, and hierarchies. Transitions are about meanings, relationships, and stories.

Changes can happen quickly. Transitions can take a long time for people to work through.

Changes are predictable. Transitions are not.

This is why change guru William Bridges says,

“It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions.”

Chapter 7 of Inner Leadership describes the three stages of transition, how to prepare for and manage them, and how to use them to build a final layer of inspiration for your project.

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