transition coaching butterfly

Coaching To Support Your COVID-19 Transition – By Douglas Montgomery – Executive Transition Coach

COVID-19 is changing our lives and behaviours in ways that we would not have imagined six months ago. The lockdown is impacting each of us in different ways. One of the consequences is that many jobs are furloughed, others are working from home, some have been let go as their jobs are made redundant as companies cut costs or close. Many of us are experiencing transition, and need support or coaching to work through that. Here, I share my thoughts on what transition is, and how you can ask yourself some simple transition coaching questions to help make yours a successful one.

Damian Barr tweeted that we are all in the same storm but in very different boats. At the extremes, especially on the frontline of healthcare, social care and food supply it is full on and perhaps overwhelming. For others it is a blessed break from the routine of job or career, and of course there are many points in-between. On top of all this, many are finding it scary and others are dealing with bereavement.

Sometimes, like a pupae starting life in one form before transforming into a beautiful butterfly, we take a while to find out who we are and what we are here for.
The current major changes in personal and professional circumstances can be the trigger to take stock and ask, “What do I really want from my work and life?”, “Is this job or career sustaining and nourishing me?” “Am I aligned to my purpose?”

There are no rules that say you need to stay the same, or that you cannot change.

Many, including myself, are finding that lockdown is creating a new rhythm and flow to life and that this new way of living and working (or not working) is offering new insights into what is important. I personally have more time to write and to bake, to read and to garden. My work as a coach and supervisor continues with a new spaciousness around it. I have a new appreciation for my whole portfolio of work and life. I am spending time on what is important and meaningful to me. Many of the things I used to do have been taken away. Some of the work I do has had to stop – teaching on training days, learning on workshops and retreats. These I miss and understand in a new light.

There will be some of you who have found the coronavirus crisis and your circumstances within it a kind of jolt or awakening. For you, these changes may have given you the opportunity to rethink or perhaps re-feel what you want from your career or job. Often such turbulent times create the opportunity to reassess our purpose and priorities in life. Is the work I do reflecting who I want to be? Perhaps the realisation is that you don’t want to carry on as you were. It may be that what has emerged from this enforced period of change is a realisation that it is time for a more permanent change; a change of your making. It may be that you now know what you are moving away from. Or it may be that you know what you want to move towards. Either is fine and normal. It may be a bit of both.

Whatever it is for you, you find yourself in a transition.

Transition is different from change. Change is external, e.g. change of financial circumstances, change of working place or hours, change of role, change of location etc. Transition, on the other hand, is an internal process – a psychological letting go of something and the inner shift into something new. It brings a new energy when managed well. It can be sticky and entangled when not attended to well. William Bridges, who has written extensively about transition, explains that sometimes change comes first before we have come through our personal transition, other times transition comes first, shifting our internal thinking and feeling before any external change occurs or is created.

Bridges (2009) describes three phases of transitions; Endings, Beginnings and the Space Between, that are not linear and can be iterative. We can start in any of these stages and move between each stage in any order as we try to make sense of the experience of transition. However, each is important and needs attention to enable us to successfully transition. There are important aspects of each phase to attend to.

By the time we are contemplating a significant career change or some form of retirement, most of us have developed a pattern of behaviour and thinking we fall into when faced with a major transition. We unconsciously fall into these patterns because it has a familiar comfort and gave us some form of benefit at some time in the past. However, there is usually some unfinished business that can keep tripping us up and make a complete transition challenging and unsatisfactory in some way.

Here I will come clean. I have learned through my own experiences of transition, and a lot of support how to make a satisfactory and fulfilling transition from research scientist / leader to executive coach and then later transitioning out of corporate leadership life and into a new lifestyle and portfolio career. These latter transitions were very different from my previous job changes, where I would sneak out of one role and turn up in the next as if I’d done a secret midnight flit. It felt safe, and yet always left me feeling unsatisfied; that I had not been recognised, nor had I recognised those that I had left behind. I’ve written previously about my transition and some of my learnings (read my previous blog). What I have subsequently learned is how to create an authentic fulfilling transition, that releases my energy into the new beginning.

What I am passionate about is supporting you. Transition coaching enables you to align with your purpose and identity and find your way to a good Ending, so that you can make fulfilling and successful new Beginnings and navigate the really important formative yet often confusing Space Between.

A recent article (Feigen & Williams 2018) highlighted the lack of preparation and support for senior executives stepping down and moving into the next phase of life / work. If lack of support for the senior CXO positions is an issue, then there is a clear lack of support for other leaders in the organisation at manager and director and VP levels. We are offering support through coaching and one stop shop access to resources to help you navigate your unique and personal transition well.

So, what is lockdown letting you see in a new light, what do you want to keep, what do you want to drop?

Bridges W, Transitions, Life Long Books 20

Damian Barr Poem Tweeted 21 April 2020

The CEO’s Guide to Retirement by Marc A. Feigen and Ron Williams, Harvard Business Review, September 14, 2018 []

About the Author

Charlotte Billington, Career Transition Coach and Co-Founder of Transition Peak
Doug MontgomeryExecutive and Career Transition Coach
Doug is an executive coach whose passion is the development and growth of individuals to fulfil their full potential. Professionally and personally he has experienced at first-hand the challenges and opportunities created by mergers, reorganisations and career and personal transitions.