Brandon Towle

The Art of Transition: How to Anticipate and Handle Change Well

The Art of Transition: How to Anticipate and Handle Change Well

Is it possible to anticipate change as you envision the next season of life?

Fortunately, the answer is yes, no matter how murky the future sometimes appears. Anticipation is basically proactive thinking – preparing for what might be around the bend. This preparation causes you to be aware and ready for changes and to respond to them appropriately. Having the proper response to a real life situation causes you to be more effective in the moment of change and to manage your emotions properly instead of reactively.

Here are a few things to consider when facing the changes that might come with the next season of life:

  1. Think about the big changes that will occur within the family. For instance, do you have a daughter who is a senior in high school this year with hopes of going to college next year? Or maybe you have a son getting his driver’s license. Those are both big changes for your kids, as well as for your family as a whole. On top of thinking about the logistical planning and timetables around these major events, be sure to create space to think about their emotional needs during such periods of developmental upheaval. Does your daughter seem worried about getting into school or being far from home? Or maybe she’s afraid of not figuring out her major or career passion. Take time to talk with her about those things, walk alongside her in that fear, and game plan together on how to be prepared for them so she can meet the change head-on with confidence. Try doing the same thing for your son. Anticipate the lessons and encouragement both children will need in advance so you can maximize your time with them and help them prepare well for their next season of life.
  1. Understand where the organization or team is heading in this next season.  Are you growing like crazy? Maybe you need to bring people on to build systems, processes, and to conduct training. Maybe your growth necessitates bringing someone onto your team to address a skillset not currently represented. Or are you in a period of stagnation? Think about the things you need to stop doing AND start doing. Is your messaging focused and sharp? Are there inefficiencies to resolve? Is the problem with people and culture? Whatever the case may be, think about your areas of growth and need, and then plan for the skills, timelines, and changes that need to accompany it, including the necessary considerations for how your employees or teammates will react to those changes.
  1. Know yourself to lead yourself. When you know your tendencies and patterns you can predict your actions. When you change your actions you change your consequences, which in the end, reshapes your reality. If you know what kinds of emotions or reactions you’ll experience when your daughter finally leaves for college, you can begin leading yourself proactively into the right behavior versus the natural, reactionary behavior. In the end, it all comes down to intentional action vs. accidental action. Intentionality, focus, and self-awareness are your greatest assets when dealing with change healthily and effectively.

With those three points in mind, take time to anticipate the year ahead. Think about what will probably occur based on the natural areas where your family or organization will change. Do that, and your next year will have a better chance of being a great year.

Getting Good at Change

The other component crucial to getting good at change is honing your ability to handle transitions well. The first skill is to anticipate change, as we discussed above, but the next phase requires  executing that change efficiently and healthily. Doing so requires treating transition with intentionality. It means communicating and speaking about the coming changes often. It requires helping teammates and family deal with it appropriately. Ultimately, it comes down to getting in and out of transition fluidly.

A combination of nature and experience/intentionality helps the great leaders see the future a little bit ahead of those they lead. They have a tendency to see the waves on the horizon and either adjust course or prepare to handle them.

Transition is the act of moving from one reality to the next, ideally, with relative ease. Managing that transition is an art that even the best leaders struggle to master, but in the end, know the importance of it and continue developing their ability to handle it well. They master it because they know that failing to do so will result in negative impact for themselves, their people, and/or their family.


So, how do you become a master at transition?

  • Think Ahead – Being proactive is the ability to think about the possible ramifications for Action A vs. Action B as it relates to those you lead. Thinking ahead requires the ability to stop, observe, process, and then project a vision of what could be, along with how you can apply that understanding to your situation.
  • Keep Communication Consistent – Employees and stakeholders alike appreciate clear, concise, and continuous communication. Practice communicating consistent messages so that transitions become a bullet point, not a large wave of total upheaval.
  • Address Negatives With Clarity – People want to know the consequences of negative changes ahead of time rather than being kept in the dark. The better you deal with negatives the more trust you will garner among those you lead. Address the negatives with facts more than emotions, though it’s often helpful to acknowledge the potential painful emotions such negative factors could evoke. It is ok to show your own emotions as well, but not to the point where your disappointment drives the agenda – that’s a difficult lesson that often stalls buy-in to change, while still bringing about the negative consequences, at which point, no one wins.
  • Learn to Shift – The art of transition actually comes from the ability to move your mind fluidly from one activity to the next while maintaining focus and composure. If you can develop this skill set then you are on our way to mastering transitions and taking your leadership, as well your organization, team, and family, to the next level. If you want a deeper dive into learning about effective transition skills, check out our book called “5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time” for a host of helpful tools, concepts, and practical applications for your daily life.

Years ago, Tony Dungy, former head coach of the Indianapolis Colt, talked about the fact that he has the unique skill of generating consistent communication with his players by using his voice and tone to create cadence. Because he had a soft voice, he would use short, louder tones to get attention or manage negative team emotions. Essentially, he was intentional about his influence and wielded it in such a way that he could steer his team toward a positive culture by handling situations and changes in a measured, consistent fashion.

That leaves the question…

How about you?

Do you abhor change or run to it? Do you know how to help your team or your family to transition into the change appropriately?

The best leaders will calibrate the right levels of support and challenge to ensure the team handles transitions as effectively and healthily as possible.

Getting from one place to another can be hard, but transitioning well can make all the difference, ensuring change becomes a positive reality rather than a negative memory.

In the end, great leaders help their team transition well while handling the negatives with intentionality.

This was originally posted by GiANT Worldwide and I wanted to share it here as well. If you’re interested in learning more about how your ability to handle change and transition affects your leadership, I’m happy to schedule a meeting to discuss. Just click the contact button and let me know!

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