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Leading, Transitions, and Change

Now, more than ever, everyone is faced with a relentless onslaught of change in today's fast-paced business environment. Change is an organizational reality we live and work with on a daily basis. Leader-managers and individual contributors alike must learn to live and work in a dynamic environment that offers few constants and many opportunities for change, growth and development. For some reason, this is not particularly good news for those of us who would just like to do our jobs, make what contribution we can, and earn the living we need to support our families and lifestyle. It seems that the one thing we resist most is the one aspect of modern life that is with us forever - change.

Why is that so? In my view, people don't have nearly as tough a time with change (defined as external dynamics) as we do with transitions (which I define as internal dynamics). This module is designed to help you explore the inner dynamics of transition as a response to the changing world around us.

Since change is a constant, then transition is the inner experience you and I have as we deal with external conditions that impact us. The first key to understanding and taking control of our personal experience of change and transition is closure. Closure is about accepting the change in external events as a matter of fact. It's about coming to grips with the idea that something familiar to us has gone out of existence. Closure requires us to let go of the past and bring an end to the old. It means giving up control over external events. It also requires us to be curious about what is emerging. It demands that we gain comfort with a higher level of ambiguity or "not knowing." This is more easily said than done. Closure allows us to move gracefully toward the new while honoring our old ways of being and doing.

As we get closure on an event or process ending, there is necessarily some sense of anxiety and fear about newly emerging circumstances and conditions. While somewhat uncomfortable, the opportunity for transition is to focus on finding a new path for personal growth and professional vitality. No doubt, there will be obstacles. There will also be the opportunity to learn new processes and develop new structures that will help you adjust your behavior and performance to new emerging requirements of the change process. As we become more proficient in demonstrating the new behaviors that are consistent with the change, we begin to experience increased self-efficacy and confidence. In a certain way, we rediscover ourselves as consciously competent in the new environment.

The third and final phase of transition is engagement. In this phase, the key to success is "accepting the new." Leader

s must help themselves and their direct reports commit to the new expectations defined by the change process. Leaders must hold themselves and their direct reports accountable for demonstrating their newly acquired performance capabilities. Finally, leaders and their direct reports must take personal responsibility for sustaining the gains achieved in the newly emerging organizational paradigm. In this way, transformational leaders can help organizations change and people transition into new and more vital structures for work and to improve the quality of work life.

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