A Focus on Transitions – the Centrepiece of Change

There’s something about the end of summer and the impending arrival of Fall that really resonates for me, and I suspect for may of you. It’s part regret (that the days are becoming shorter), part satisfaction (for having revelled in all that summer has to offer), and part eager anticipation of the opportunities that miraculously seem to appear when September arrives.

A friend (who pays attention at many levels to what is going on around her), mentioned, as we sat under a magnificent apple tree on an indolent, warm Sunday summer afternoon, that the past few months have been for many people she has observed, a time of transition. And I thought how true that was for me, for family members, for a number of my friends, and for many of my coaching clients.

And her remark got me thinking about transitions – and about what a valuable platform that is from which to view the role of coaches and other helping professionals who work  with people and organizations in these times of incredible change.

Transition – a dictionary definition: passing or change from one place, state, condition, etc. to another. The place where one is between old and new, between past and future, between letting go and new beginnings – the place that William Bridges called ‘the neutral zone,’ or ‘the place that change puts people into.’

Ah, you say. There’s not much neutral about that place – especially in our organizations, which are required today to adapt, grow, move at a breakneck pace uncharacteristic of decades past. And it’s true that there is anxiety, uncertainty, and mystery in that place. However, there is also hope, creativity, and clarity there.

The ‘neutral zone’ or the place where the change really occurs, refers to a state that is not the past and not the future. It is the present, but a present where it is so important to be conscious and aware of what has been, what is changing, and what can and will be different.

People at all levels of organizations, need and look for support in moving through this state, and internal and external coaches, HR professionals, mentors, and others, are often called upon to help.

If you find yourself being asked to guide or coach those who create change, or those who are impacted by it, you might want to ask yourself some questions like these:

  • What does changes and transition mean to me?
  • How much attention does my organization give to transitions?
  • How much do our leaders and managers consider the very humanneeds of individuals to work through the process of change?
  • What role can I play in helping others in this zone?

The opportunities to make a difference are huge. The rewards are great. Personally, what I love about being able to help others see clearly, is that as they learn, I learn; as they grow, I grow; as they transform, I transform too.


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