It’s been a tough few weeks and I feel sure it’s not quite over yet but I thought it might be better to write this in the middle of it rather than after it, if you know what I mean. I’m talking about endings and beginnings – moving from one job to another.
When I was at Roffey Park on my OD practitioner programme I fell in love with the Bridges Model of change. What is it that I love? I love the humanistic approach that it takes and how it almost ignores mechanistic approaches to change, placing a greater emphasis on how people react and eventually embrace change. I have been going through a change process and I think had people focussed on Bridges it could have been a whole lot less painful!
Bridges says there are 3 phases of change:
- Ending, losing and letting go
- The neutral zone
- The new beginning
Firstly I think good endings are important. They represent the chance to reflect back and unpick what has happened, good and bad, but importantly to celebrate achievements, to say thanks and to celebrate the moving on. Never leave people to go without acknowledging they played a part in whatever happened and say good luck. Marking the end for me appears to be important and without that I am left with a residual unpleasant aftertaste. Did anyone know I was even there?!
The second phase, the neutral zone, can be a scary place. It’s slow, it feels almost relentless, no matter how long or short it is, too slow for those of us who like pace. It’s like a grey middle ground, I am left with feelings of being neither here, nor there, with no sense of belonging. Fortunately for me I am old enough and experienced enough to know it will pass but it doesn’t stop me getting a lump in my throat and feeling tearful – it in other words it brings out less than the best in me.
So good beginnings, how can we do this? Create positive energy and make people feel welcome. Look after them like you would want to be cared for yourself. Look after the practical things to make the transition as easy as possible, for example make sure they have somewhere to sit and can make a drink! Simple things make a difference, no detail will go unnoticed. It’s a time when simple human kindness can help someone feel at home. Other tips include clarity about what will happen next but not too much, give them time to settle and also influence how it goes – no one wants to find themselves with no room for ideas, or manoeuvrability. I think a good beginning can colour and influence what happens next, where loyalties lie and how much of the discretionary effort people might be prepared to give as time moves on.
So what have I learnt? That we should celebrate endings, that people need support in transition and that good beginnings really matter. Simple messages really – maybe that’s why we forget.