MAY 2010

         VOLUME TWO, ISSUE 5

3 Human Elements  "On the road again.
Just can't wait to get on the road again.
The life I love is making music with my friends.
And I can't wait to get on the road again."
               (Music & lyrics by Willie Nelson)
Willy Nelson sure is enthusiastic about being on the road again. Can't say that I share that enthusiasm given my latest road trip. Circumstances necessitated another cross-country move in less than a year so last week found us "on the road again". Maybe I would have been more excited if I traveled in a big bio-diesel "home away from home" bus like Willie's Honeysuckle Rose IV. Apparently, it has everything anyone could ever want on a long trip, including moonshine in a quart jar...for passengers only, of course.
Instead, I'm in a Ford SUV with my partner, 2 standard poodles and a bossy Goffin's cockatoo, pulling a small covered trailer filled with precious plants, cleaning supplies and stuff we had to be able to get our hands on immediately. Moving companies don't traffic in living things and we're very attached to the plants. And cleaning supplies are just too pricey to leave behind. (Have you checked the price on Liquid Gold lately? Whoever came up with that name back in the 50's had a crystal ball.)

The trip was about 1700 miles...but it felt three times that far. We were 4 days on the road, 3 nights in the kind of easy-on, easy-off motels that allow pets in a room. It rained for half the trip and the two poodles firmly believe that if Mother Nature gets them wet, they'll melt. We love them too much to withhold food and water for the duration, so you can imagine the challenge of making comfort stops. And the male poodle (we call him Mr. Man) is never completely satisfied unless draped across the lap of the person in the passenger seat. On top of all that, we're all off our feed (I don't care if I eat another fast food meal) and I shall I put it?...somewhat grouchy.
It wasn't until we arrived at our destination that I was able to get some perspective...and I realized that our road trip was - both literally and figuratively - a transition. I also realized that I too often focused on the "wrong" things on the trip, which only increased my level of frustration.
In working with clients, I would have picked up on these patterns right away.  That's not always the case when it comes to my own behavior. It's the proverbial "cobbler's kids go barefoot" phenomenon - and it's why we all benefit from seeing both changes and transitions through the eyes of an objective third party. Sounds like a bit of job security to me!
Jennie Ayers
Principal, Challenge It Now 
In This Issue
Trouble in Paradise
Why We Should Slay Ambiguity
Is That a World Block?
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The Words of William Bridges 
"Disenchantment, whether it is a minor disappointment or a major shock, is the signal that things are moving into transition in our lives."
"Much as we may wish to make a new beginning, some part of us resists doing so as though we were making the first stop toward disaster."
"We come to beginnings only at the end."
"Change can happen at any time, but transition comes along when one chapter of your life is over and another is waiting in the wings to make its entrance." 
"Trouble in Paradise" by Janice Criddle 
My son recently transferred to the University of Hawaii at Manoa. This was the fulfillment of a dream he's had since middle school, so I was taken totally off-guard when I began getting the complaints. He loves the school, the professors, his major. He HATES Hawaii!!
collaboration cubes  I was perplexed and feeling less than helpful until I stopped looking at his situation as a Mom and started treating it as if I were his consultant. What would I say to a client who was having a negative reaction to a seemingly positive change?
I went back to the tried and true. In his book "Transitions, Making Sense of Life's Changes", William Bridges states:
"Change is your move to a new city or your shift to a new job.  It is the birth of your new baby or the death of your father. It is the switch from the old health plan at work to the new one, or the replacement of your manager by a new one, or the acquisition your company just made.
In other words, change is situational. Transition, on the other hand, is psychological. It is not events, but rather the inner orientation and self-redefinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate any of those changes into your life. We have to relinquish old arrangements and embrace new ones. Unlike change, transition is an ongoing process and often takes place inside of people. Change can happen quickly and can be (and should be) speeded up. Transition is an organic process and happens at its own natural pace, which may be very different for each individual. Change is about outcome - transition is all about the journey and how we manage things while we're en route. Without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture. Unless transition happens, the change won't work because it doesn't 'take'."
In Bridge's model for change, transition has three phases.
          The Ending
          The Neutral Zone
          The New Beginning
Using this model, I could clearly see where my son was in the process; that helped me create strategies to help him move through each phase.
The Ending
In order to move to Honolulu, my son left an active social life, a great circle of friends, a girlfriend, his car, and his family. Those were all endings, losses that he felt, and he blamed Hawaii for those losses. He was afraid he had made a mistake; he was shocked to discover that Hawaii was not what he expected. 
My job became to:
  • Understand what was being lost
  • Accept the reality and importance of the losses
  • Not overreact to his "overreaction"
  • Acknowledge the losses openly and sympathetically
  • Expect and accept the signs of grieving (anger, anxiety, bargaining, sadness, disorientation and depression)
  • Mark the endings
  • Treat the past with respect
  • Connect the "ending" to the success of the future and what really matters
The Neutral Zone

The first few months, he was confused and uncertain. He couldn't make friends, had difficulty focusing, and was constantly second-guessing his decision.
My job became to help him:
  • Tap into his creativity
  • Find his new "normal"
  • Create structure, systems
  • Make connections
The New Beginning

Now he is reinventing himself.  He has found success in his studies (maintaining his highest GPA since elementary school) and extra-curricular activities (he earned a spot on Hawaii's national poetry slam team). The complaining has ceased and we've moved on to conversations about completing his undergrad on time and where he will be going to school for a Masters. He is even dating again.
My new job is to:
  • Get him to clarify, articulate his purpose
  • Help him see the outcome
  • Help him with the planning process
  • Reinforce the "New Beginning"

We all know that change is inevitable. Preparation for change is important.  In my son's case, the packing, travel arrangements and apartment hunting were absolutely necessary. But preparing for change does little to prepare for  transition. According to Bridges, the most common mistake companies and organizations make when it comes to managing change initiatives successfully is that they are obtuse to the human side of the change they're trying to bring about. They don't understand that "explaining the change" and "justifying the change" do very, very little to encourage people to let go of the assumptions they've always had, the relationships they've always depended upon or the behaviors they've always used to get results. In other words, they ignore transition.
It's key that companies and organizations recognize that change and transition are not interchangeable. And while we will always have a "little trouble in paradise", it's comforting to know that we can better equip ourselves to handle it.
Slay Ambiguity by Rebecca Ripley 
When I looked up ambiguity on Wikipedia, the definitions themselves were ambiguous.  Inherent confusion!  Did I mean lexical, syntactic, or semantic ambiguity?  I fared slightly better at, which defines ambiguity as "doubtfulness or uncertainty of meaning or intention".  What triggered my search?  My colleagues and I were struck by how often articles invite us to "embrace ambiguity".  Why should we?  If we, as OD professionals, want to lead transformations in these complex times, then we must be the ones to help organizations see that it is through achieving clarity that we drive successful performance - not by embracing ambiguity.  
If the morning headline reads "Embrace pollution", will you? Chances are you won't. And yet daily we're asked - often encouraged - to accept a kind of pollution in the workplace called ambiguity.
Two decades ago, our company produced its first Proprietary Leadership Competency Profile that contained a cluster of behaviors we named a "tolerance for ambiguity". Since then, having a tolerance for ambiguity has not only endured as a desired leadership competency; it has developed strong legs that bedevil both rational thinking and our experience with workplace behavior.

Ambiguity as a human perception and condition will always exist. And there are times - as in brainstorming sessions - when being comfortable with the unknown can work to one's advantage. But let's not confuse the ability to be adaptable and flexible in ambiguous situations with a need to embrace ambiguity as a whole.
collaboration cubesAmbiguity is the corrosive enemy of a healthy work system. It negatively impacts performance and the attainment of clear, realistic goals. Tolerated and allowed to ferment throughout an organization, ambiguity sounds a death knell for high achievement. As OD professionals, we must be leaders in eradicating ambiguity and replacing it with clarity.
High achievers crave clarity. Companies are much more likely to retain top talent by saying "no" to ambiguity.Instead of embracing it, let's seek it out and slay it! In times of change, be clear about what triggered the need for change and paint a clear picture of where you're headed.  During the transition, help employees articulate what it is they're losing to acknowledge and celebrate the past. Then, support them as they navigate the uncertainty of the so-called "neutral zone", and clearly demonstrate how the "new beginning" is aligned with your vision and mission.  Your employees will appreciate it and productivity will rise, rather than plummet, during the change.
Wherefore Art Thou, Common Sense? by Jennie Ayers
Sometimes common sense deserts us. Sometimes we forget things we know to be true, things we've learned and unconsciously apply in our day to day work and personal lives. Mostly these lapses in common sense occur in times of stress, anxiety, fear...emotions most of us experience when things in our lives change. I certainly felt stress during my recent cross country moving trip, which caused me to lose sight of one of the most basic truths: there are things I can control and things I can't.
Seeing that in black and white makes it seem like a no-brainer, but it's not uncommon to blur the lines between our circle of control, our circle of influence and our world blocks. And when we do that, we end up wasting time and energy on the things we can least impact.
Our circle of control encompasses those things over which we are directly in charge. That's where most of our energies should be focused. Our circle of influence incorporates those things over which we can have some impact and we should devote a certain amount of energy to them. World blocks are those things over which we simply have no control, yet too often we expend most of our energy on them, complaining and railing against those world blocks, increasing our angst and frustration because no matter what we do, we can't impact them. 
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It's vital to clarify what we can control and influence and what we can't. When we're faced with a challenge or event, we need to ask ourselves: (1) Is this in my circle of control or circle of influence? (2) Even if it is, is it worth the effort to control or influence it? (Just because we can control or influence something doesn't mean we should.) And while we may not be able to control those world blocks in our lives, we can choose how we react to them.
I'm chagrined to admit that I spent a good deal of the road trip complaining about world blocks (the weather, the distance, the lack of scenery), instead of adjusting my reaction to them. I could have broken the distance into shorter driving stints, so we weren't trapped in the car all day long. I could have chosen a different route - one with a more diverse landscape. And I could have searched for covered picnic areas so the pups would have been eager to answer nature's call, knowing they wouldn't get wet. (You won't think that's nuts if you've got furry kids.)
I'm going to keep all of the above in mind as I try to restore order. I've already let go of being completely unpacked within a week. I've decided that's a world block I can get over.

3 Human Elements
Challenge It Now focuses its energies on a common goal - through consultation, coaching and facilitation, we help professionals in business organizations create and sustain a workplace climate where the positive experience of work is optimized, engagement is enriched and performance potential is maximized.
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