It might be helpful to let you know a little more about me. Rather than start with my approach or background, I want to share some of my toughest transitions so you can understand why I’m so passionate about helping people during theirs. I remember some of the more challenging transitions I’ve had and I wished there had been someone who could have helped me build the bridge. Many of my transitions took longer than they should have and I questioned myself constantly. Am I taking the right approach? Can I really convince them I have the skills? Can I do this? With the right resources, I could have made the changes in half the time.
There are elements of psychology that often people don’t consider during a change. We can get into that trough of despair and burn a lot of time and energy. If we know what’s coming, we can seek out some support to keep us on the right path. We only have a finite amount of time and energy, so it’s best if we use it in ways that get us closer to our dreams. Yes – sometimes we need to wallow in our distaste for our current situation and that gives us the sting that we need to move forward. But – to tell you the truth – I only want the sting long enough to take an honest look so I can build some creative tension between where I am and where I want to be. Then it’s time to pull the arrow back and let it fly.
Here are a few of my transitions – all challenging for me - some turned out good and some not so good.
I was late to my first day in the Army. How’s that for a rocky start to a transition? And I’m not talking about five minutes late to formation. I mean over 40 minutes late for my first day of Officer Basic Training. I had to walk into a room full of 250 of my peers as they quickly figured out who was the dunce of the class. I went from being an English Major to being chewed out by a Sergeant Major in the blink of an eye. But I recovered and found a way to excel.
- My transition from the military to business was not easy either. I worked with a great recruiter who taught me interview skills and set me on a path of reading two business books a month for over 15 years. But when I lost the power of the rank, I had to learn to lead with more influence. That doesn’t mean that soldiers will blindly follow the rank. It’s just a different approach once you are out of uniform. I had some struggles here at first but figured it out through great coaching, leadership development, and a lot of reflection.
- I took over a struggling plant after a merger. Things were tough – lost time injuries, product quality issues, cost overruns, and bad morale. This is where I learned how important it is to understand and respect history if you want to make change stick. I learned how to co-create an organization’s vision, mission, and goals. Building a great team and getting people involved identifying a positive image of the future can completely turn things around. I first learned about strength-based approaches here as well. I use those a lot in my coaching today.
- I made a move from one coast to another with a completely cold network. I had very few connections outside of my company and I was in the “apply, wait, and hear nothing” cycle. I tried a few new approaches and ended up with three offers on the table from three different industries on the same night. All I had to do was pick the best one. The end was good, but the process took me over 9 months. Today I encourage people to build communities (rather than network), so they have help when they need it. My community is no longer cold.
- In one move, I had to learn marketing, graphic design, consultative sales, consulting, blogging, and public speaking. Taking a risk can be a good thing and it tends to dramatically increase your rate of learning. The tough part is all those things are hard to learn. I had zero experience in these areas and had to figure them out fast. This one is still a work in progress, but I have a couple mentors that have put me on the right path.
Each of these transitions taught me something different about how to manage during the in-between phase. When you start a transition, you are one shape. When you complete it, you are another. It’s that in-between time - when you are morphing – when having support helps you get to the other side. I’ve learned a lot during my transitions and while helping clients through theirs. There are keys to success that can help you navigate during career, job role, and responsibility transitions.
Those are a few of my experiences in transition that should give you a sense of where I’m coming from. Tell me about your transitions – how can I help you build the bridge?
- Mike Sweeney, www.sabercoaching.com