Relationships in Transition

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A couple of my friends have had adult children who moved back in with them. In one instance, a son returned from a long term overseas assignment to restart his professional career. For another, a son lost his job, and estranged from his wife, moved home.  I learned from both these friends the importance of openness and compassion in the midst of change.

These transitions, for both child and parent, are difficult. The found space that parents retrieved after their children began their adult life is taken over by their children whom they love. The question that nags in these situations is, "What should our relationship be now?"

Transitions in life and work are not simply processes of change and economic reordering of life and work. The social and organizational contexts that encompass them are intensely relational. They strain the well-worn path that relationships built over time develop.

When life altering change comes, and we find ourselves in transition, we need to focus on the social as much as the practical questions of job search and finding a new place to live.

Long-standing relationships develop a predictability that becomes expectation for continuity. Disturb that pattern, and relationships become frayed.

Something as simple as a job change that requires a move can become highly disruptive. It isn't just the one employed who moves, but the whole family who is uprooted to a new place to establish roots in a new place.  If the family unit is fragile, the transition can be more difficult than it should be.

When we enter a transition space moving toward that point where change is made and a new course is set, reflection, communication and a refocusing of values is needed.

Reflection is a form of self-criticism that enables us to see the logic of change in the midst of the transition.

Communication allows us to see a broader picture as we discover how those who are also impacted feel. We listen and learn from them how best to manage the transition.

Refocusing of values serves to ground us in what is matters most to us, which serves to focus our purpose as a vehicle for those values to live.

All of this is best done in open and honest conversation regularly scheduled.

If you are a parent whose adult child has moved home, talk with one another about how this is personally impacting each of you. Discuss what is important in the function of the home, and reach an agreement on the basics of living under the same roof again.  While the adult child is still a child to the parent, and the parent to the child, they are also adults who should share responsibility for living together again.

If you are in transition, and find yourself, living at home again, especially after years away, recognize that you are not reentering the home of your youth. You have entered a social environment that has changed. No longer is this place oriented around the nurture and protection of children. Your parents, while they still love you, have moved through their own transitions into new stages of their life as adults. There is a place for adult children in the lives of their parents. But it must be discovered, and not merely assumed it is an extension of what their childhood was like.

Change is hard. It doesn't have to be as hard as we make it.  All is required is for us is openness for the relationship to be what it needs to be today, not as it was in the past, or wish it had always been. Going through the transition points in our lives are hard enough without our relationships becoming an obstacle to positive change.

A Support Plan for Relationships in Transition

My proposal is not a widget that fits every situation, but can beneficial in many situations.

Simply apply the Five Actions of Gratitude to how you live together in the midst of change.

This is a tool you can use to negotiate how you live under the same roof again. A simple translation could be something like this.

Say Thanks - At least once a day, with sincerity and specificity.

Give Back - Take responsibility for caring for both the private and shared spaces.

Make Welcome - Be hospitable to one another. Be open to the gifts that you have to offer and receive. Think of this as a new relationship.

Honor Others - Even at the most difficult moments, treat one another with dignity and respect. Be honest, caring and trustworthy. Be apologetic and forgiving. Be kind to one another.

Create Goodness - Establish new paths of interaction and sharing. This is particularly true in the transition is to be lengthy.

Practice these things, and the transition will go more smoothly, and new dimensions of your relationship will emerge.

Creating Impact In Life & Work During Times of Transition: Circle of Impact Conversation Guides

This one of a series of post describing updates to my Circle of Impact Conversation Guides.

Creating Impact In Times of Transition - Life-Work Coaching

This guide has remained virtually the same since I originally created it four years ago. 

Here's what you need to know to use this guide effectively.

1. Make the shift from speaking about change to about transition. Change for many people seems random and disruptive. Transition is still change, but it can be also seen within a historical context. It is important to identify the continuity that is involved with change.

2. We identify the transition by describing the experience of change. What has changed, and how can that be identified. If your performance has flattened out or declined, then you know you are in transition. If your performance has suddenly risen, unexpectedly, then you also know that you are in transition. It is important to recognize this.

Transition Points-Space

3. To recognize this transition is to identify what I call a transition point. This point in time means that we must make some decisions about how we are going to handle this transition. If we are at on a plateau performance-wise, then mostly likely we need to make some changes. There maybe things that we stop doing, and things that we start doing. What is needed is a plan, not necessarily a long-range plan, but a plan that determines how we are going to conduct ourselves in what I call the Transition Space.

4. In addition, by seeing change as a process of transition from one point to another, we also must recognize that this is normal. Change is normal. It is more disruptive and problematic when it is continuity and sameness is viewed as what is normal.  Organizations are human institutions, and therefore living organisms. Either they are growing, in a proper, balance, healthy way, or they are in decline or disarray.  Seeing change as a normal way of life is to be able to identify the big picture of development and decline that has been taking place.

5. It is essential that we try the best we can to anticipate the changes that might be coming. Taking this approach to change enable this mindset to develop.

How To Use This Guide:

Together, with your group or team, read through each paragraph, and discuss how this picture fits your organization. Answer the questions in section four, and begin to look the changes that you need to make to be able to transition to the next level.

This is one in a series of descriptive posts about the Circle of Impact conversation guides. Next is The Circle of Impact. 

Just Knowing You Are In Transition Doesn't Mean Much, with a Personal Update

Transition Points-Space2

For many of us the past 12-18 months has been a time of transition.

We recognize that the context of our businesses has changed. As a result, we have been making changes.

I visualize this change as a transition from what I was before to what I will be in the future.

When we enter a Transition Point, we recognize that something is awry. Our performance is down.

Our markets are drying up. Our work is much harder, more stressful.

It isn't enough just to know you are in transition.

It isn't enough to say "Well, we are in a recession."

It isn't enough to hope that things will get better.

It isn't enough just to realize that things are changing.

When we enter a Transition Point, just waiting for things to get better doesn't work. There are reasons why we are here. Some of the reasons are the result of our decisions and actions. Others are the changes that are happening in the external circumstances of our life and work, like an economic recession or epic technological transformation.

It doesn't matter WHY we are in a Transition Point.

It really doesn't matter that you understand it.

What does matter is WHAT you are going to DO about it.

Change does not happen in isolation. Change is not some abstract idea that others talk about. Change happens and we must respond.

Once we decide to respond to the change that is happening, we enter a Space between Transition Points. This Transition Space is a place of decision and action.

For example, it is a beautiful sunny summer day. Yet the weather report is saying that a really bad storm is coming. We don't wait to put our children's toys in the garage, close the windows of the house, and check to see if our flashlights have batteries, and our phones and computers are charged. We take action, because change is coming.

This is the Transition Space where we plan, prepare, and act in anticipation for the next Transition Point.

For many of us, the recession's severity caught us off guard. We had not anticipated the storm that was coming. We were ill-prepared because don't think of Change as normal, but rather abnormal.

This is our first mistake.

To live in the Transition Space between Transition Points is to assume that all things are on-the-table subject to change or even go away.

It happened to me last spring. I was disappointed, but not surprised, because I had been through this twice before.

We not only need to anticipate potential Transition Points, but also, more importantly, learn to adapt to those changes. If we take this attitude, then, we will see that the perspective of constant and continuous adaptation to change is now the most stabland secure position to be in.

External circumstances can change. Our internal confidence and values should not. We should see that each day is a time of change, and is the Transition Space between yesterdays Transition Point and tomorrow's.

Here, then, are some principles to can help learn to understand how to respond to change.

1. It is a time of stopping and beginning.

We stop doing some of the things that we been doing, even ones that we are good at and in which we find great comfort and affirmation.

We stop because they root us in a past performance that is no longer the best response to the change we are experiencing.

If a hurricane is coming, we don't stand under an umbrella waiting for it to pass. We take action to protect ourselves and our families from the storm.

We must develop new approaches, new skills, acquire a new attitude about who we are and what we have to offer people.

2. It is not a time of waiting, but of patience and persistence.

To wait for times to get better is to lose ground every day. But being faster doesn't necessarily translate into faster arrival at a higher performance level.

When we begin new initiatives, it takes time for them to reach maturity. It takes time for your market to recognize that you are different, and for them to change their perception of what you have to offer.

Instead of waiting for things to get better, we work with great patience and persistence to make each day a step forward. We are totally committed, and we look for ways to improve and change every day.

When we are patient and persistent, our resilience to the hardships that comes with change also grows. If we can remain realistically optimistic, not blindly hopeful, then we gain the resilience we need in a time of great transitions. In time, we'll find the success we seek.

3. It is a time of change which changes us as people.

The test of transition is whether the potential exists within us to be different, even better, and possibly, even, more successful.

To get through this time of transition, we need to tap into aspects of our potential that are dormant.

To realize our potential means we have to become the persons who have the capacity for impact that our latent potential represents.

If this means we move to a different community, change the way we dress or leave behind some business relationships, then we must do it.

Times of change are times of opportunity. These times of transition are the space where we can lay aside the encumbrances and constraints of our past and grow into our next one.

Very few people are willing to do this. The comforts of their present situation, even as things get harder, less successful, are difficult to give up, in order to seek for unknown and uncertain opportunities.

These are lessons that I've learned over the past few months.

Update: Four and A Half Years Later

The above post, apart from some editing for clarity, an added example, and corrected syntax, was four and a half years ago during the height of the "Great Recession".  Regardless of the causes of that recession, the impact remains with us. People and businesses that changed, learned how to be better during hard times. There is always opportunity.

My own experience may be somewhat instructive.

A year after I wrote the above post, I took a position as an executive and fund raiser for non-profit serving ministries across the state of North Carolina. I was let go after the 20 months, and eventually the non-profit closed because of lack of funds. I quickly moved into another position as an interim pastor of a church. Two years later that work is done, and I'm preparing to move into the next Transition Space of my career.

This Transition Point for me incorporates the three principles above.

I've changed as a person.

The work that I have done for nearly twenty years is changing into a very different form.

My future work is development and re-purposing of materials that I've developed over the past 15 years for a new audience, in new forms, with a new focus of engagement with people.

Change happens every day. However, the changes that we need to make some times need time to grow within us before they can emerge as their own Transition Point in time.

My advice to each of you is be patient, persistent and resilient as you intentionally adapt to the changes that are taking place in your life and work.

We are all living in the Transition Space between the Transition Points in our lives. Practice these three principles doesn't mean you can fall back into believing that change no longer affects you. Instead, it means that they opportunities and potential that come with change will be more evident.

Transition Points and Space

This week's Weekly Leader column - Living in Transition Space - looks at a different way of understanding change. Transition Points-Space
Instead of thinking of change as simply disruptive, we should look at it as a transition process. Our natural tendency will be to focus on the transition point. However, we typically living in the transition space between those junctures of change.

I'm convinced that the frequency of these transition points are going to increase. As a result, we need to develop new ways of approach our work as organizational leaders. This is what the column addresses this week.