Transistions Made Easy (Or At Least Easier)

I get to work with a lot of people who are ready for a change, by their own design or not.  Some know what they want:

  • New position at the Same Company
  • Similar Position in a Different Company or Industry
  • Different Everything

Others just have an itch that needs scratching but don’t know much beyond that.

Whatever the situation, most people can work out the tactical aspects of change. The trickiest steps in the transition tango are usually associated with uncomfortable, often unfamiliar, feelings*:

  • Overwhelmed
  • Lost
  • Scared
  • Self-Conscious
  • Excited
  • All of the above

*Supposedly women shouldn’t use “feeling” in business because men won’t get it and using that word makes us seem soft. Well guess what? After 10 years of doing this work, I can safely say that men “feel” these things too.

In response, I’ve developed the Multiple Paths Approach, which helps people become more calm, open, focused, and successful during their period of change-in-the-make. There are 2 basic steps:

1.  Name several possible “paths”   A path is a direction you are curious about, for example “I wonder what it’d be like to work in healthcare.”  Instead of thinking sequentially along just one track however, imagine exploring several interesting possibilities simultaneously, e.g.  “Healthcare is very dynamic, but I also love international travel.”  Write down a handful of possible paths.  It will allow your brain to relax since it doesn’t have to remember everything that’s buzzing around between your ears.  Naming many paths also shows some respect for the shy desires that get pushed aside if you’re only looking at the “practical” paths.  A path may relate to a position, company, industry, course of study, or new business idea. One path should always be Make the Current Situation As Good As Possible.

2.  Focus on the One Next Step for each path Following through on this piece is how you prevent overwhelm and build momentum.  For each path, determine what tiny step will carry you farther along the way.  It may involve researching online, talking to someone, or creating something.  You might not know what the next step is.  In that case, the “next step” is to calendar a time to figure it out!

3.  Steadily progress along each path Okay, I know I said “2” steps.  This last bit is just repeating the above step over and over until you reach a particular path’s “summit”.  For some paths, the summit may be a dead-end where you’ve learned enough to know that this isn’t for you. Use that knowledge to propel you along on a different path.

Years ago I was excited (for a week) about following the Be A Vet path.  That was until a “one next step” had me shadowing my vet and holding unhappy animals while the tech poked their innards for stool samples.  In one day I discovered that I get antsy if left in windowless rooms too long, and am more uncomfortable with cranky animals than cranky people.

Other summits may lead to beginning graduate school, starting a business or securing a new position at a different company. Clients have also earned an elusive promotion at their current organization because they did such a good job Making the Current Situation As Good as Possible, even while they were looking elsewhere!  Sometimes there’s no place like home, Toto.

This tool is most helpful when you’re:

  • Defining your paths with candor
  • Working your paths diligently
  • Looking for ah ha’s and applying that learning

The process also works better when you tether any sense of “already knowing” what lies ahead and walk the different paths with the sense of a true explorer.


Getting What You Want – Requires More Than Wishing and Hoping

This bowl once held peach ice cream.  It was really tasty.

"come, come to me, yes, come closer"

With earnest, doggie hopefulness, Dougal thought that if he stared long enough and wanted it badly enough, the bowl would move close enough for his tongue to get in there.  It didn’t work, so eventually he walked away.   And then came back to try his Intense Focus strategy again, which didn’t work that time either.

If you’re a regular, you will notice that he’s no longer trying the On The Table strategy.  He learned that one doesn’t fly around here.

"What's the big deal?"

It’s easy to miss obvious themes in the complexity and importance of our over-scheduled lives.  Luckily, the Golden Mirror reflects some universal realities:

*Powerful yearning isn’t enough to secure what you want.  It takes action.

*Achieving something new often requires trying something new, and learning from the experience.

*Serendipity may pop up and present different strategies or skills, but a conscious plan gives you something to work with in the meantime.

I like how a written plan adds texture to the desired goal, providing traction so one actually knows what to do in a given day or week.  Following through on the concrete details helps you feel successful, inspires new ideas and provides useful accountability.  Research by Gail Matthews, Ph.D., of Dominican University confirms:

 “Those who wrote their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not write their goals.” 

 I guess that’s why I created EssentialEdge™ the guided, self-coaching journal and am now working on the Daily Debrief iPhone app.

Thanks to a defined goal and plan for gaining obviously-needed skills, the Exuberant Dougal now enjoys some pretty significant off leash fun.

Life is So Good.

Life is So Good.

(Two Bears Training – couldn’t do it without you!)


“Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” (The Clash)

At some point in your career you have probably wrestled with this question. I’ll bet that a few of you are in the midst of this internal debate right now:

  • I feel stagnant, but know the politics and can do this job with my eyes closed.
  • The potential package is great, but the environment is more intense and less family-friendly.
  • My boss hates me (or I hate my boss); anything would be better.
  • The challenge and entrepreneurial culture are very appealing, but the benefits aren’t.
  • I feel completely unappreciated, but am overwhelmed at the thought of a job search.

It’s rarely a simple decision, but there are a few steps which will make it easier. First, pull out two pages from a legal pad for a modified version of the old pro’s and con’s assessment. Title one page “Stay Put” and the other “Make the Move”. Then draw a vertical line down the middle of each page and label the left column “Pro’s” and the right column “Con’s”. Begin listing as many things as you can and keep it handy for when other issues come to mind. When it seems representative, rank the most important 3 – 5 considerations.

Typically, people only do one pro’s and con’s worksheet, focusing just on the viability of leaving, especially if it’s for a specific opportunity. While this evaluation provides insight about the option at hand, it’ll keep you blind to other possibilities. I’ve seen lots of “ah ha” moments when clients get really clear about their current situation.

The second step is less concrete but more valuable. Your “rational” evaluation is influenced by a complex range of emotions: frustration, excitement, disappointment, hope, uncertainty. Sometimes they can mask additional factors influencing your decision. For example, does it seem easier to leave than own up to performance shortcomings or learn something new? That would be good information to have, since when we move, we typically take our baggage with us. (Conversely, are you balking at a terrific new opportunity because it stretches you?) Ask yourself the following:

  1. What do I long to escape?
  2. What is drawing me away?
  3. What would remain the same?

Incorporate your responses into the lists from Step 1. Now what’s your gut telling you?

When working with a client in transition, we focus on clarifying their options and potential outcomes. At the same time, we look at how they could be more effective in their current role. Their answers to the above three questions are a good starting point. This second strategy lets them build new skills which will support success in their next role and make their current situation more enjoyable. In some instances, shifting a few things in the current situation has worked so well that the vote has shifted from “go” to “stay”

*Originally published in the February 2007 issue of Jump In newsletter.


What I Know

Every Autumn I’m drawn into conversations about change and transition. What might have been “okay” a few months ago now seems stale. I hear:

  • “Work is fine, but I’m itching for something new.”
  • “I want to tackle that next challenge/promotion.”
  • “My kids are back in school; I’m ready for my turn.”
  • “Help! I don’t know what I want next, but I want something different!”

I think years of schooling also have etched this pattern of “buckle down and focus” into our psyches. Personally, I feel pulled to assess my practice and refresh the vision of my business. Even though 4th quarter is quite hectic externally, internally I am aware of deeper currents. Taking time to explore those thoughts and desires provides a soothing balance to the busyness.

What I KnowOne tool that’s proven useful, is starting and maintaining an inventory of “What I Know”. Instead of allowing snippets of ideas to spin distractedly in the periphery, make a habit of anchoring and connecting those needs by capturing them in an evolving list. Start defining and refining the whole range of “what you know” about what you want.

In the beginning, you may have a very short list that seems too vague or overly optimistic. When I was ready to transition out of my marketing career, the only things I “knew” I wanted were: flexibility, autonomy and the opportunity to have my work grow and change as I did. Then I added things like: working with people on a meaningful, sustained level and being recognized for offering a valuable service. Eventually, I had a useful benchmark for decision-making and guidance.

It sounds simple and the good news is – it is! The better news is that this technique really works by creating a meeting place for your ideas and sharpening your attention.

*Originally published in the November 2006 issue of Jump In newsletter.