In this time of uncertainty, it seems appropriate to revisit the seminal work by William Bridges on Managing Transitions. As I have shared before, Bridges believes that transitions occur in three stages:

  • First is the endings After any transition, there is a loss and an ending. Currently, people are experiencing loss of health or income but even the fortunate are experiencing the end of routine, normalcy, safety or close human contact.
  • Next comes the neutral or limbo stage. In this period, things are uncertain and unsettled. Many are in this stage now as they are adjusting to week 2 or 3 of working from home – it’s not how it will be, but it’s better than it was a week ago. The interval stage presents an opportunity to question old habits, see things with a new lens and to explore new ways of being but processes are still very much in limbo.
  • Finally, there is the beginning. In this phase, the “new” begins and people are able to craft their future and become open to growth.

As you move through the implications of COVID, acknowledge the losses that you are feeling in the transition. Recognize that you – and your family, staff, friends – are all experiencing their own individual losses. The safe, known and stable is no longer.

And it is also healthy to understand that where many are now is, at best, the neutral zone. We’re in a confusing, scrambled and dynamic time and it’s natural to temporarily be uncertain and unsettled. You won’t have to homeschool and hunt for toilet paper forever. You won’t always have “extra” time at home. Stores will reopen. People will return to offices and kids will go back to school. This is just how it is now.

It’s also important to remember that when the shelter-in-place is lifted and the crisis is deemed “over” that you’ll go through another transition: figuring out what life is like post-COVID. You’ll need to acknowledge the new losses you’ll have: being back on the road instead of at home, wearing dress clothes instead of leggings, time spent in commuting, or the struggles to enforce a rigid bedtime and alarm.

And you’ll eventually experience another interval stage, too. What conveniences will remain? Where will you eat lunch after your favorite eatery closed? How do you process the deaths of those you knew and loved? What is a staff meeting like when it is once again in person?

We’ll all come out on the other side of this as different people and everyone will undergo transitions in different ways while the new dynamics are sorted out. Be conscious of Bridges’ three phases to help you navigate these changing times.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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