Transitions are a near-constant when building, running, and growing a business.
We face a change in our own status as we shift from a leader of a small, scrappy organization into the face of a significant enterprise. We work with employees who join the organization, seek mentorship and growth opportunities, and eventually thrive or leave — necessitating a transition to new staff. We may explore different revenue models, redefine our niche market once or twice, and move from market acquisition to profitability. All along, even the “typical” transitions associated with business — or at least their timing — often feel novel, unanticipated, and challenging.
So how do we navigate all this change and come out on the other side having built what we intended?
There’s no easy “trick,” but there are some simple ideas that hold a lot of power. One of these was shared with me by Dr. Carey Borkoski in a recent episode of my podcast, The Authority.
We discussed Borkoski’s book, Dancing with Discomfort: A framework for noticing, naming, and navigating our in-between moments, which is full of strategies for successfully addressing — rather than avoiding — the anxiety, self-doubt, worry, and uncertainty we feel when facing unfamiliar, unanticipated changes. By embracing dissonance, she shares, we can get to the moments of important discovery.
When I asked about advice for teachers transitioning into administrator roles — a move that comes with a new set of responsibilities and requires a different skill set — she recommended an exercise from coaching called “Peak Experience.” This same concept applies equally to transitions in business as described above, in which we’re quickly moving into unfamiliar terrain while trying to hold true to ourselves:
“You take five minutes, you sit down in a quiet place, and you ask yourself to describe a moment or an experience — either in this context or that brought you to this context — that you just know this is why you're here. And you write for five minutes,” she explains. “Then you spend a couple of minutes reflecting on, what are you noticing that came out for you?”
Borkoski describes that we often unearth our priorities through this process, enabling us to “put a stake” in those priorities. They are the core values that anchor us. And even if we’re good at setting and articulating our values, this approach to reanchoring is essential when our context changes significantly. When, inevitably, something doesn’t go as planned, we can then determine whether the reason is conflict with core values (an easy call to abandon it) or something else that needs to be course-corrected.
Revisiting our “why” and the purpose of our work is a theme that comes up often on The Authority, so it may lead some to the question, “isn’t this obvious?” To that, Borkoski says “yes.” It is obvious, but leaders don’t often give themselves time to do it. And beyond ourselves, we can also scale that impact by modeling for staff at all levels the necessity of time for reflection and finding an anchor in our core values.
This may not be a brand new idea, but it’s important. And in an industry in which we all have a strong purpose associated with our work, at a time on the calendar when we’re heading into a new year full of change and fresh opportunities, it’s worth a reminder. Finding that anchor keeps us from drifting away.
About the author
Ross Romano is CEO of September Strategies, a consulting firm helping K-12 companies and nonprofits make the right moves to go from vision to decision. Ross is an experienced organizational leader and strategic advisor frequently sought after for thought leadership strategy and content development, team and talent evaluation, business development and marketing strategy, and audience-specific messaging platforms. He frequently writes about human-centered, empathic leadership and storytelling principles for company leaders and founders. Connect on Twitter or LinkedIn.