Sometimes the hardest part of change comes after we think we're done. That's one of the SIX LESSONS I've been learning recently, with the big move that's taken all my energy for the past eight months. Another lesson is asking for help, which is what I do below.
I just moved home and business 1500 miles and, boy, am I learning first hand about the impact of change on our hearts and minds!
I've spent my whole life in New England and here I am on the southwestern coast of Florida, in a tiny town called Osprey, north of Venice and just south of Sarasota and Tampa.
In retrospect, while challenging, the operational part was easiest, maybe because it was just about getting things done. We bought first, then sold, then packed, drove south (twice), solved endless problems.
The harder part is the internal transition - the sadness of leaving, the limbo of the in-between time, and worst, the disorientation that has come with arrival.
In business we tend to focus mostly on the operational parts of change, but it's the emotions of transitioning to whatever is new - a new job, a process, a software, or a new team - that often get the least attention and cause problems.
My husband and I hadn't planned on moving south. Escaping last year's miserable winter for a couple months in Florida opened our eyes to the benefits of warmth for my husband's Parkinson's Disease symptoms. We saw a problem, we saw a solution, we moved into action.
Leaving was well marked and celebrated. We knew it would be sad and we took time to acknowledge the loss - something I now recommend as part of a business change process. Could you have a good-bye party for that software you'll no longer use, or the project team that is being dismantled?
EXPECT PROBLEMS AND DELAYS:
Unfortunately the physical stress of packing and moving sent my husband to the ER twice and the "move-in-ready" house we bought turned out to have extensive water damage and mold. Just thirty minutes celebrating with champagne in our lanai and our eyes were watering and throats burning. We ended up in a tiny mobile home with our furniture in storage, while rushing decisions for renovations.
But how often does a planned business change not go smoothly and an interim fix is required?
NORMALIZE DISCOMFORT AND EXHAUSTION:
Limbo is uncomfortable! Neither here nor there, the emotional energy to manage unreasonable and unsatisfied expectations takes a lot out of you. We spent a lot of time solving problems, and the rest of the time complaining.
Could we normalize this discomfort in organizational change? Maybe have pity party days and allow stress relief with a sponsored extreme bitch session - black humor is very useful!
TRANSITION TAKES LONGER THAN CHANGE:
The most unexpected pain of change is the phase that's come now we've officially arrived. We are finally unpacked in our newly renovated home and yet it's still not our home.
Everything takes time and thought, from the simple to the more complex, at home and beyond. In which cabinet is the blender? Where do we store things with no basement? Which new health insurance should I choose?
Every place we go takes directions, Google Maps. My brain has no embedded maps to follow. No familiar way points.
Even the weather, which is why we made the change, is disorienting. What season is this, anyway? My New Year's Day Polar Bear plunge was into 80 degree water!?!
There are none of the normal rhythms and pathways of life that allow our brains to operate on auto-pilot. Human brains prefer auto-pilot, as decoding new data is resource intensive and require those parts of the brain which are smallest. Everything uses more time and energy when we are experiencing a change.
CREATE CONNECTEDNESS: Then there's the elemental question for humans - where's my tribe? We can't easily survive without one another so our brains have evolved to constantly evaluate whether new people are "friend or foe." New research shows that relatedness may belong on Maslow's hierarchy of needs as the most primary, most motivating.
We've been very lucky to have two close friends nearby experiencing the same change, who we feel safe with, who we can celebrate the progress and complain with.
But otherwise, whether you are the dry cleaner, the neighbor to my right, or the new doctor I was referred to (who looks about twelve), my brain is asking whether we belong together. It's not loneliness, though I certainly miss my friends, family, and colleagues. It's more a sense of vulnerability. Will I be "safe" with these new people? Do I belong? Will we be friends?
As I look to build a new professional "tribe," I'm asking whether we can do good work together.
Though normally independent and self-reliant, we've had to ask for help from our old friends and new neighbors. It's not easy to ask but lifting heavy objects is part of moving and not easy with one of us struggling with balance and one of us only 113 pounds.
Creating the expectation that people will need help (and will get it) is an important part of change in business, too. So I'm going to ask for your help.
If you know of someone with whom you think I could do good work, please connect us! Sarasota, Tampa, Clearwater, Venice, Ft. Myers - they're all close enough. I'll take all the help I can get.
And if you find yourself nearby, look me up!
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SIX TIPS FOR CHANGE
1. Celebrate what's being lost
2. Expect unexpected problems and delays
3. Normalize discomfort and exhaustion
4. Find ways to create safety, build connection
5. Look for support
6. Be patient - the transition isn't done just because the change is complete
WILL PLANNERS HELP?
Two different young clients in two different states raved about two new planners they were each using. I was surprised because these are digital natives - they grew up with computers and smart phones - and they were recommending paper planners??? When one said "it's like having Nancy in my back pocket," I had to check it out and ordered both planners, which each started through Kickstarter.
What I liked:
- Strategies to organize your thoughts, your priotities, and your time, not just spaces to write appointments
- Designated spots to track your wins, and things to be grateful for
- Choice of dateless, so you can start using them whenever you want
- Spots to write your focus for the day, week, and month, encouraging detail as well as big picture thinking.
- Tools to help you assess progress
- Places to noodle on ideas
- Great quotes
Tools only work if you use them, so if you just write in appointments, these aren't for you -just use your Google Calendar. But if you want help thinking through how you use your time, and how to be more effective, you might try them. I am and I'm liking them - I still use my phone for tracking appointments, though.
Quote courtesy of the Passion Planner
You must live in the present. Launch yourself on every wave. Find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.
Henry David Thoreau
Quote courtesy of the
Your most important task as a leader is to teach people how to think and ask the right questions so that the world doesn't go to hell if you take a day off.