In William Bridges’ book on Transitions he says that we’ve got it backwards. We think that our personal and organizational stories unfold through beginnings, middles, and then endings. Nope. He says it’s much more accurate and helpful to see our personal and organizational lives unfolding with endings, then middles (he calls them the neutral zone), and then beginnings. Today, I share a few thoughts on transitions and endings in particular.
Alvin Toffler was absolutely correct when he wrote in 1970 that we were heading into a time that would not be characterized by change, but by constant change. Who could have imagined these foundational changes:
• Massive companies disappear overnight
• Women surpass men in the workforce (in raw numbers and supervisory positions)
• 24-hour and 7-day businesses are commonplace
• India and China go from debtor to creditor nations
• Phones – if that’s what you call them – connect us to everything, everywhere, everybody all the time
• Families divorce and meld, are headed by women, by two women, or two men, or multiple combinations of parent(s) and step-parent(s)
• Career jobs are all but nonexistent
• Information-news comes daily not from “the three networks” but from literally thousands of networks
You are an exception if every one of those eight transformational changes has not affected you. That’s a lot of transition and a lot of endings. William Bridges’ foundational message is that you can’t really begin something new until you’ve said goodbye to something that’s passed. In this fiercely competitive global economy – especially in the state of Michigan that’s been least ready for it – I would suggest that we have a huge amount of “goodbyes” to say. We’d be more productive and happier if we put these things to rest – in our minds, our talk, and our behaviors. Let’s say goodbye to:
• Labor-management attitudes that are not firmly rooted in win-win, pie-growing thinking, not slice-grabbing thinking
• All classifications that diminish instead of uplifting groups: immigrants, women, those with visible disabilities, people with different religious beliefs, and yes, even men!
• The idea that low skills will ever again generate high-pay
• Any idea that you’re pretty much done learning when you turn 25 or 30 years old
• Bosses who don’t constantly invite leadership by their teams
• All arrogance about country or company, faith or family, team or self – (instead: prove that worth every day)
• The illusion that our country and state will grow without significant sacrifice and painful compromise (if you’re interested, I’d love for you to read and discuss my analysis of Michigan’s current budget mess, “Michigan at a Crossroads.”)
If you’re in the midst of the general societal struggles I’ve lain out – and how could you not be? – and perhaps you are in the middle of significant personal and familial transitions, then I recommend that you list some of the ideas, assumptions, and habits that you must let go of, say goodbye to, in order to
Lead with your best self!