Managing Change by Managing Transitions—Endings

According to William Bridges, Managing Transitions, organizations and individuals go through three transitional phases when change occurs:
1. Endings (losing, letting go)
2. The neutral zone
3. New beginnings

Transitions begin with endings. Endings can be difficult because the current state is comfortable and provides certainty. To become something else and to do something new, individuals must change who they currently are and start doing things in unfamiliar ways. People experience endings in very different ways. Some people move rapidly into the neutral zone. Others grieve and cling to the present.

To support yourself in transition, it is helpful to understand your own patterns of dealing with endings. Start by reflecting on your history of endings from childhood through adulthood. What you bring with you to a transitional situation is the style you have crafted over time. Is your style abrupt or gradual? Active or passive? Tentative or courageous?

To support others with endings, clearly explain the change and why it is needed. Recognize that endings are difficult and confusing. Avoid wasting energy trying to make people feel comfortable and happy. Instead help them to succeed despite their discomfort. Conduct open conversations about what people are experiencing using Bridges’ transition framework to structure the dialogue. Mark losses with rituals and ceremonies. Provide time to grieve. Take time to create safe, stable structures. Listen, listen, and listen some more.

Next week…the neutral zone!