Transitions

 
Photo by  Holger Link

Photo by Holger Link

 

Not in his goals but in his transitions man is great.  —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last week, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel at a local tech event on the topic of career transition. People are still writing to me about how much they enjoyed the session, which is both gratifying and humbling. Because of the level of interest, I thought I would share some of the key takeaways so others could benefit.

I’m often asked for book recommendations and I covered two main ideas from William Bridges 1980s book Transitions. People are often surprised by by the titles I promote . It’s not that I don’t read current information, but if it’s not adding a ton of new perspective, I stick to solid classics—and this book, in my opinion, should be in everyone’s business book library.

First, I think it’s important not to use the terms “change” and “transition” interchangeably. 

Change is situational. It is the external event that is taking place, a new strategy, a change in leadership, a merger or a new product. The organization focuses on the outcome that the change will produce, which is generally in response to external events. It can happen very quickly.

Transition is the inner psychological process that people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the new situation that the change brings about. The starting point for dealing with transition is not the outcome but the endings that people have in leaving the old situation behind. Getting people through transition is essential if the change is actually to work as planned.

This is when, with virtually every project at any level, we often find ourselves thinking: this would be such an easier process if the people weren’t involved!

Second, a process change is always accompanied by a psychological process. The psychological process is often accompanied by challenging emotions like confusion, ambiguity, and distress. We often confront because Western culture offers few rituals or rites of passage to mark us through whatever stages we find ourselves in, people often try to skip from the loss and pain of an ending directly to a new beginning, marked by enthusiasm, hope, and acceptance.

Related to this point, there is a wonderful passage in the book that I read to the group, which I’ll share here:

We usually fail to discover [the need for rituals] at an ending until we have made the most of our necessary external changes. There we are, in the new house or on the new job or involved in the new relationship, waking up to the fact that we have not yet let go of our old ties. Or worse yet, not waking up to that fact, even though we are still moving to the inner rhythm of life back in the old situation. We’re like shellfish that often continue to open and close their shells on the tide-schedule of their old home waters, even when they have been transplanted to the laboratory tank or restaurant kitchen. —William Bridges

Photo by  chuttersnap

Photo by chuttersnap

That image, of opening and closing to tides (environments) experienced in past roles is a very visceral one for many, including myself. We’ve been where the waters are warm, cold, nurturing, and inhospitable—leading us to seek the right “climate” for our needs. But do we react well when we get there, or do we bring old habits, information, or practices with us, closing us off to opportunities in the present.

###

The panelists spanned multiple sectors from non-profit, technology, healthcare, and gigging. Each person brought vulnerability and truth to the conversation as they shared their career paths with the audience. Their bios are here, and worth a look.

Rebecca found her way through constraints. Her partner’s role took him out of the country, she followed seeking alignment with her skills in a new industry. Constraints can yield inspiring journeys and force us to tap into creativity we didn’t know we had.

Blair sought to gain greater depth as a physician by exploring it through other functions: policy, research, teaching, and business. Depth, the ability to gain deep perspective from multiple sides of a problem, helps people gain great insights that help lead industry thinking in new directions.  

Dan’s background in education and his volunteer interests in teaching led him full circle after a career in enterprise technology. Sometimes it’s possible to link our career expertise with something we’ve been nurturing on the side.

Amy’s path was largely intuitive, following her pleasure and the kinds of projects they sparked her deepest curiosity, from writing copy for Bing’s Search page (those juicy images with interesting factoids, that was her!), to a Jungian based Fairy tale Factory helping people learn to tell stories, to writing and advocating for a broader spectrum of male fashion at Nordstrom, to her current copywriter role at Microsoft. Sometimes we can see a direct line to where we are going, sometimes we can’t—but there are no dead ends. Everything we do is in service to the direction we are heading.

###

In each case, there was a “breaking point” or a “crisis point” where an inner voice was starting to express itself. Was this the climate in which I want to stay? Am I willing to hide the biggest piece of who I am or what I have to offer in order to fit in? Are these the kinds of politics, or is this the kind of game I want to play?

At some point, our true selves come to save us from ourselves. They help us make the decisions we need to make, suffer the distress and ambiguity of change, and lead us toward our pleasure. All of the panelists, whether they designated these phases rituals or not, took time to discover what they really wanted. They considered their unlived life and weighed the consequences of going the course. And, they created a passage. They went on sabbatical, or sorts, even if it was just the week between jobs, to provide a clearing for what lay next.

They made space for a new beginning.


Christine Haskell, Ph.D. is a pragmatic researcher, coach, and consultant focused on helping busy leaders take responsibility for their learning and development. Her book Craft Your Life, sharing lessons from master craftsmen and women on personal and professional mastery, is due out late 2019. Sign up for her (semi-regular) newsletter here.

Profile in Craft: Kelly Sakaki moving from academia to industry

To tackle the wicked problems of our present and future, we need to embrace a strange, counter-intuitive irony: as organizations across all sectors continue to create and adopt technologies like artificial intelligence, employees need to stay relevant by increasing their subjective intelligence. My research on master craftsmen and how they gain mastery helps connect the dots on this new dilemma, and might be the place to seek initial solutions.

When it comes to open ended problem solving and learning to improvise with what we are given; master craftsmen have something to teach us. Having to work with a material where they cannot be sure what will happen is something they are used to. Combined with the more structured training and education offered to us today, improvisational thinking in the face of uncertainty is useful to leaders in any sector. Even in the face of countless books and articles about how important it is, most traditional business school programs and organizational training fail to address sophisticated thinking about ambiguous problems.


 
Image credit: Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health.

Image credit: Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health.

 

[from scientifica.uk.com] Always taking things apart and not always able to get them back together again, Kelly Sakaki never lacked confidence to try.

Now Kelly is an engineer and post-doc fellow at the Center for Brain Health. His job focuses on developing instrumentation for scanning cells in brains. He works as a scientist, biologist, engineer—to name a few disciplines! Kelly is developing cures for autism.

There are a lot of toys to play with, but ultimately the goal is to help people. Kelly’s passion is designing instrumentation. It’s an art, and rarely works the first time. It’s a process of iteration. There’s no rule book to tell him what to do.

“I’ve found my passion. I know this is where I want to be.”


Christine Haskell’s research focuses on individuals dedicated to the craft of their professions, in pursuit of excellence, sustainability and integrity. Craftsmen and women use those principles to raise standards toward a better world. Her current work is featured in Look To Craftsmen Project. featuring the Profiles in Craft Series. You’ll find a trove of profiles of intriguing artisans and innovators spanning a wide variety of professions across the globe that illustrate her research with links to the full articles. Christine’s book The Future of Work Will Require Craftsmanship is due in late 2019. To understand more about Christine’s work, check out Our Current Problem.


Profile in Craft: Graham With Master Brewer

To tackle the wicked problems of our present and future, we need to embrace a strange, counter-intuitive irony: as organizations across all sectors continue to create and adopt technologies like artificial intelligence, employees need to stay relevant by increasing their subjective intelligence. My research on master craftsmen and how they gain mastery helps connect the dots on this new dilemma, and might be the place to seek initial solutions.

When it comes to open ended problem solving and learning to improvise with what we are given; master craftsmen have something to teach us. Having to work with a material where they cannot be sure what will happen is something they are used to. Combined with the more structured training and education offered to us today, improvisational thinking in the face of uncertainty is useful to leaders in any sector. Even in the face of countless books and articles about how important it is, most traditional business school programs and organizational training fail to address sophisticated thinking about ambiguous problems.


Graham With talks to the Straight about what got him into brewing, Vancouver's craft beer scene, and more.

Graham had his career all figured out — he was going to be a Chemical Engineer. He just never thought those ‘chemicals’ would involve hops, barley and malt. Now, he’s head brewer at Parallel 49 Brewing Company, managing recipe development, brewing operations, quality control, and engineering projects.

A brewing company approached Graham while he was working at a wastewater facility. After a month of decision making, he made the switch. He appreciated the similarities. where you take dirty water, ferment out the impurities, and release it to the ocean. His engineering skills are very active in the brewery.

The brew-master works with a team that brews around the clock.Graham is ordering ingredients, coordinating production schedules, and designs recipes. His work is a mix of science and creativity and he feels lucky to have his hobby intersect with a career path that is related to engineering.


Christine Haskell’s research focuses on individuals dedicated to the craft of their professions, in pursuit of excellence, sustainability and integrity. Craftsmen and women use those principles to raise standards toward a better world. Her current work is featured in Look To Craftsmen Project. featuring the Profiles in Craft Series. You’ll find a trove of profiles of intriguing artisans and innovators spanning a wide variety of professions across the globe that illustrate her research with links to the full articles. Christine’s book The Future of Work Will Require Craftsmanship is due in late 2019. To understand more about Christine’s work, check out Our Current Problem.