Three Ways to Make Friends with Transition

We just hosted our Marketing Growth Leaders™ private cohort last week. The theme was crystal clear: transition.

This theme is swirling all around us.

As we await an accelerated distribution of COVID vaccines, we simply cannot predict when we will return to a new hybrid work model. And we certainly cannot predict how our customers will behave differently in the post-COVID world. (One thing is for sure: we all share a pent-up longing for hugs and gatherings!) It feels as if we are in a messy maelstrom.

Among our clients and fans, transition is appearing in different forms. Some CMOs are making a career change. Others are announcing reorganizations and juggling complex acquisitions. Others are still unsure how they want to design their post-COVID teams.

Our special guest has navigated plenty of his own mega-transitions. Chip Conley, CEO, boutique hotel pioneer, surfer, bestselling author, and global (pre-COVID) traveler, has helped millions of his readers and followers dance more gingerly through transitions by sharing his own raw experiences.

I was very inspired by this lively session, and thought I would pass along strategies to help you navigate any transition you might be facing now:

1. Be clear with what stage of transition you’re facing. The essential three include: the end of something; the messy middle (chrysalis), and something new.

In Western society, we often want to skip the messy middle–and it haunts us later. I find power in accepting when I’m not at my best, when I am confused, or simply exhausted. My body keeps the score and reminds me when I try to ignore the messy middle. Tapping into my body sensations and telling the truth help me move through it with less trauma and more patience.

2. Revisit your values through journaling. Here are two optional exercises:

  • Write a “Fairy Tale.” Conley will often pen a parable when he’s stuck or feeling anxious: “I write a story of where I am today. I set aside two hours, and start my journal entry with ‘Once Upon a Time…’ It helps me be objective and a bit more creative. It leaves bread crumbs to help me clarify where I’m at. You may discover childhood moments where you can curate your future.”
  • Re-visit your values. This process is referred to as self-affirmation theory. Scientists at the University of Sussex report that re-establishing or re-visiting our values helps us to perform better in unrelated areas. 

    Harvard Professor and social psychologist Amy Cuddy encourages us to ask questions to remind yourself of what you value. Dr. Cuddy suggests these questions to trigger and cultivate your true self:
    • What 3 words best describe me?
    • What are my signature strengths, and how can I use them?
    • What makes me unique and different?
    • Describe a time when I was my best self. What was I doing? How does it inform my life now? What values did I model? How can I repeat that behavior today?
    • What actions will I take take to trust my answers, and live within that way of being?

3. Cultivate and celebrate “power moments.” In Conley’s New York Times bestselling book, Emotional Equations, Conley reminds us that Anxiety = uncertainty x powerlessness. Be transparent with your teams and close colleagues when you are feeling anxiety. Stay away from the “crappy happy” crowd who act as if everything is great. It isn’t always great. Identify what you and your teams can control, then focus on small wins. You are helping people to feel a bit more powerful. “If you have less anxiety, you are more creative and productive in your work.”

Airbnb models resilience and transparency during COVID. They redefined their buyer/renter persona and marketing strategies so that they appealed to the “local drives” audience. They preserved customers by rapidly addressing concerns with distancing and sanitation procedures. In addition, Conley continues to advise Airbnb co-founders, and regularly reminds them that “We have to be able to see that oasis that we are limping toward.”

In retrospect, we could never have predicted in March 2020 that Airbnb’s valuation would be 10x higher today (approximately $120B). They teach us that small wins can evolve into power moments, and they build confidence in what’s possible.

Uncertainty and ambiguity are now the norm. Spoiler alert: a vaccine will never return us to normal. We are witnessing the evolution of a new way of living, working, and leading. Many of us are designing a new post-COVID work reality.

You can choose whether you transition with one foot stuck inside the shell, and keep struggling. Or you can release yourself from that cocoon of comfort, and take flight into the unknown.

You may just want to wait until that moment when the status quo is no longer bearable.

Thankfully, like Chip, most of us prefer to soar.

Contact me if you’re looking for a trusted advisory board to help you through the messy middle.

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