It must have been third grade when my entire class got tickets to go to the circus. I was SO excited!
And it did not disappoint. We ate popcorn, rode on an elephant, and watched human beings fly through the air. I was amazed as I watched the trapeze artists swing from bar to bar, and I wondered what it must be like to leave a place of safety and comfort to jump into the unknown, and fly.
But after years of leading teams, I have learned exactly what it is like. As leaders, we are required to take leaps of faith into the unknown all of the time. Whenever you try something new or have to manage a change initiative that was dropped into your lap, you experience the thrill and terror of the trapeze.
Managing and leading change is just like a trapeze. You start off with lots of safety and security, but to make the change you have to jump off of the platform, let go of the bar, and fly. The leap off the platform is scary, not only because you are unsure of the landing, but also because you have no idea what will happen in between while you are flying through the air.
What do you do while you are flying through the air? You have nothing familiar and secure to hold onto, and there is nothing beneath you to feel grounded.
Does that feeling sound familiar? It should because we have all experienced it in one form or another.
So how do we hold it together when we are in between bars, flying through the air with no safety net and certainty of where we will land?
While we are in transition, we question our identity, motivation, and more. Here are common questions, and the best advice I can offer to hold it together while you are flying through the air.
#1: Who am I during this transition?
Accept an alternate or transitional identity, and know that, along with everyone else, you are also learning along the way. Be willing to adopt new behaviors, and accept new responsibilities. It is highly possible, you will not be the same leader who leapt off the first platform when you get to the other side.
#2: What are my responsibilities?
Your role and responsibilities may change. If they are not defined for you then define them for yourself. And be sure to have support. Find a mentor, or hire a coach, and ask your team for feedback as you all are transitioning.
#3: How do I engage when I’m not really sure what to do?
Great leaders are willing to try and fail. During a transition you have the opportunity to practice new skills and behaviors, test old ones; experiment and innovate. There is also an opportunity to be still, and just listen. A lot can be learned by paying attention to your surroundings, listening, and using that information to move your team forward.
#4: How do I know where to go when I don’t know where I am?
Anything is possible when you are flying through the air so dream, imagine, and work with your team to figure out where you want to land. Together, define the best case scenario, and determine what it will take to get you all there. You want to be better off than you were so figure out what it is going to take.
#5: How do I stay motivated during all of this uncertainty?
It is difficult to stay motivated when everything is up in the air. However, if you can find a way to embrace the uncertainty, and be okay with feeling frustrated and disappointed at times, you can push through it. Trust yourself, and know that you have done everything in your power to catch the bar and land safely on the other side.
Transitions can be painful, but you can minimize the pain if you are able to:
- Be patient with yourself and others, and don’t rush the process.
- Have a mentor, coach, or support system.
- Be willing to stretch and challenge yourself.
- Accept that what you feel, either good or bad, is part of the process.
- Enjoy the flight, because it will end.
Don’t to just fly through the air, when you can soar.