DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Turn and Face the Strange

Written by: on May 18, 2018

“When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.” – Mae West[1]

 

My first work experience with organizational change and transition came when I was a brand new government employee at the age of 21. We were told there would be a major reorganization (forever nicknamed THE Reorg) and we would get more information. That information came in the form of two huge charts on the wall. One was an organizational chart and the other was a floorplan of our building with a seating chart. We were told to find our names on both charts and report there. If our name was not on the chart, we were told to report to Personnel (our version of HR) to receive our new assignments in a different division. That’s it. Needless to say, it didn’t go over well. I was very lucky. Since I had only been there a few weeks and was an entry-level hire, my job stayed the same and I reported to the same person in the same place. Everything else was absolute chaos. For months, people filed complaints, refused to do their jobs, or secretly delighted in their new situation. It was over a year before everything settled down. A year later, a new reorganization was announced. Let’s just say they did a better job of communicating this time (and every time thereafter). One thing we quickly learned is that reorgs and moves are a way of life in state government. No one likes them, but state employees dance to the tune played by legislators, politicians, and public interest groups. That is a reality of life.

 

I was a state employee for almost 20 years. One of my final assignments was to be a part of the team that built a new customer service unit from the ground up – essentially re-centralizing everything that was decentralized in that first reorganization. We were supposed to do it without upsetting people (yeah, right) and create a transition process that would keep chaos to a minimum. We did not do that. We did create a transition process, but our “white paper” on the transition reminded the head of our division that there was a historical bias against reorganization and that even people who were excited to join the new service center would need to process all of the negative stories they would hear. I never found out if they took our suggestions to heart as I left state government before the center was fully implemented.

 

Reading the book, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, by William and Susan Bridges, took me through the changes I have experienced in work, churches, and in my own life. Every story or point made me thing of situations I could have handled differently as a leader, frustrations I experienced as a follower or bystander, and successes I witnessed in the different settings. This book feels like it neatly wraps up many of our previous leadership books, particularly Lowney’s Heroic Leadership. Lowney says, “When leadership is working, it hurts.”[2] Leading people is messy, especially when we are training others to be leaders – the best of the best.[3] What happens, though, when the “organization” that requires change and transition is me?

 

I confess to having a bit of a panic attack while reading the first chapter of this book. I had just started writing out my timeline to finish my dissertation work, and realized that my draft needs to be submitted in six months – three weeks after my daughter’s wedding. I began to realize how many changes and transitions will be happening over the next year and it hit me that a major chapter of my life (NINE years of grad school) will be ending and it will be time to start a new chapter. I need some sort of a guide to make that transition and this book is it.

 

Bridges notes that there are three phases of transition that take us from the old way to the new way:

  • Letting go of the old ways and the old identity
  • Going through and in-between time when the old is gone but the new isn’t fully operational (the “neutral zone”)
  • Coming out of the transition and making a new beginning.[4]

These are not linear phases, but rather cyclical phases that will overlap and fold in on each other in the transition. The “beginning,” however, is the end of the old way and identity. The “end” of transition, is reaching the new way.

 

I have known that change is coming. As much as I would probably like to, I cannot stay in grad school forever. Next spring (fingers crossed) I will graduate with my cohort and our time in this intense crucible (okay, I know that’s dramatic, but we’re tired) will end and everything will be different. What I didn’t take into account was the fact that I need to plan for the psychological transition that needs to happen. How will I let go of my identity as a full-time student and embrace my identity as, well, whatever I will be after graduation. I need to enter the “neutral zone” with an openness to the discomfort and creativity of that time. I need to be prepared to wander a bit while I find my footing, to grieve what I am letting go of, and to move ahead with new habits and patterns.

 

Even as I write this, I realize that my time in this program has been a bit of a neutral zone as well. Bridges describes what happens in this time and space as “the winter during which the spring’s new growth is taking shape under the earth.”[5] Even though I have experienced endings and beginnings during this program, I also sense a deep shift in my formation. Something is gestating in me and my next transition will, hopefully, lead to its birth.

                  [1]. William Bridges and Susan Bridges, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, 4th edition, (Boston: Da Capo Press, 2016), 58.

                  [2]. Chris Lowney, Heroic Leadership, (Chicago, Loyola Press, 2003), 288.

                  [3]. Lowney, 285-286. Lowney explains that the Jesuit founders believed that finding and training “as many as possible of the very best” was the heart of true leadership. To do this, every leader must model the behaviors and attitudes they expect. Lowney boils this down to, “If you want your team to perform heroically, be a hero yourself.”

                  [4]. Bridges and Bridges, 5.

                  [5]. Bridges and Bridges, 49.

About the Author

Kristin Hamilton

17 responses to “Turn and Face the Strange”

  1. Mary Walker says:

    Kristin, you’ve lived this book! And are living it. Whatever God has for you I know you’ll do well.
    I’ve been so busy just writing papers and going through the motions, I hadn’t thought about the psychological transition. Thanks for the reminder. It’s not too early to think about endings and new beginnings.

    • Kristin Hamilton says:

      Same with me, Mary! I have been thinking about my identity once this program is complete, but didn’t think about the emotional investment I would need to put into the transition time.
      I think, in one way or another, we are all living this book. That’s why I am so grateful for its lessons!

  2. Jim Sabella says:

    Okay, so I should’ve never read your 4th paragraph. I have a paper bag in hand and am breathing deeply, holding, counting to 4 and exhaling slowly. Yes, change is coming. Does it ever stop? Kristen, thanks again for a memorable and insightful post.

  3. Stu Cocanougher says:

    …Ch..Ch…Changes.

  4. Stu Cocanougher says:

    “What happens, though, when the ‘organization’ that requires change and transition is me?”

    That is probably the heart of this book. Most books I have read about change in the organization have a lot to do with WHY change or HOW to decide which choice to make or WHEN to change. This book assumes the decision to change has been made. The focus is on how those effected by the change will FEEL about the change. Will the accept the change, appreciate the change, or sabotage the change? Thanks for giving some good illustrations of this from your life.

  5. mm Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    Wow Kristin! Talk about bad timing. Doing your dissertation and a wedding! Both require a lot of emotional contribution and so easy to tip with just one of these life tasks. I pray you will find peace and joy in the midst of both and you will be adequately sustained through both. That picture of the woman breathing into the paper bag is not overdramatic for what you are experiencing. Here’s a thought – what if these two parallel activities will transition you from the neutral zone to the new beginnings zone? I know I have needed stressful situations to propel me forward. Geez, I hope I’m not therapizing you- but rather just empathizing with you. I got emotionally distracted in your blog by all your heavy load. Standing with you and rooting you on. Oh yeah, the blog was great too, as usual.

    • Kristin Hamilton says:

      Therapize away, Jen! I can use all the help I can get.

      I am looking forward to the new beginnings that will happen this year. It IS overwhelming, so I need to be thoughtful about how I process the psychological work, but these are GOOD changes. I so appreciate your empathy!!

  6. Lynda Gittens says:

    Kristan, I was a deer before headlights when he made the statement on the “The “beginning,” however, is the end of the old way and identity. The “end” of transition, is reaching the new way” It makes sense.
    During my lifespan I’ve had a lot of beginnings and few endings. I guess you call that cleansing?
    As a retired government worker, every fiscal year the government officials make a change which affects the agencies who then quickly make adjustments without considering the effect on the workers.
    You have experienced many changes during this DMIN process and you are still in the fight. There is greatness at the end.

    • Kristin Hamilton says:

      Ah, so you GET the whole government change thing, Lynda!
      Cleansing is a good word for part of what is happening in this program – cleansing and renewal. The ending will be hard but our next “beginnings” will be great.

  7. mm Katy Drage Lines says:

    What a delightful way to express the transitions we’re going through right now in school, Kristin! I cannot wait to see what births out of your time in this program (and all of us, really).
    The story of your years in government work reminded me so much of the frustrations my dad would bring home (he did HR for the state of Colo.)– they, too were always reorganizing and he had to help terminate, hire, and transition people, besides being part of the reshuffling himself. To come through that with a level head (of sorts) speaks highly of you.

  8. Christal Jenkins Tanks says:

    “These are not linear phases, but rather cyclical phases that will overlap and fold in on each other in the transition. The “beginning,” however, is the end of the old way and identity. The “end” of transition, is reaching the new way.” Kristin Yes!!! A lot of times we think transition is linear but it occurs in cykes. You highlight an important truth that beyond the cycles the process does overlap which makes transitioning something that can be completex and requires patience and being open minded to growing in Faith.

  9. Kristin,
    Loved the blog and the personal stories.

    One thing you said that I think is often overlooked – and is really important:
    ‘These are not linear phases, but rather cyclical phases that will overlap and fold in on each other in the transition. The “beginning,” however, is the end of the old way and identity. The “end” of transition, is reaching the new way.’

    I think we all get that people essentially ignoring the changes, chaos and transition in their lives and/or at work is an issue…. But, I would argue, that those people that want everything to happen step by step. Neatly and in order can run into trouble as well.
    Change and transitions – because they involve people and emotions – are not clean and neat. One ‘step’ bleeds into the other.
    Acknowledging that these phases are not strictly linear is an essential learning and recognition.

  10. service says:

    This paragraph will help the internet people for creating new web site or even a weblog from start to
    end.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *