Transitions: the idea vs the work of growth

Apr 05, 2023

The idea of growth is easy to sell. When I talk about a Growth Culture, people immediately get it. They’ll say, “Yes, that makes so much sense.” When I talk about the limits of a Performance Culture, I get the same burst of energy and enthusiasm. “That is so true. I’ve felt that way for a long time!”

When I talk about the work of growth, though, it’s a different story. People get skittish – nervous and uncomfortable. They want people to grow in their role, but they want it to be pain-free (or at least as painless as possible). Painless growth would be a great idea. It’s just not reality. To get in great physical shape your muscles will be sore at times. Great relationships require periodically having conversations that make you uncomfortable. I hate overused phrases, but the adage “no pain no gain” has an element of metaphorical truth. Learning new patterns that support growth always requires a period of discomfort – emotional and physical. Why?  At the core, growth always requires letting go of beliefs and behaviors that created success in the past but will be a barrier to future growth. Letting go of these is hard because we are emotionally and physically attached to them.

 In a coaching call with a new client a few weeks ago, the leader was very excited about what The Auxin Leader could do for her team. Between that coaching call and the next one, the leader used The Auxin Way assessment tool to identify where one of her team members was currently on the growth journey. She was noticeably quiet at the start of that second coaching call. I sensed she was uncomfortable and asked, “What are your observations?”  

“Some of our people will be uncomfortable assessing themselves and being assessed by their leader in this way,” was her response. 

She is correct. Even though a Growth Culture is more supportive and encouraging than a Performance Culture, some people will be uncomfortable making the transition because it is new – different. They learned how to be successful in a Performance Culture and now you are changing the definition of success.

Understanding one thing can help you accelerate growth in your team – transitions. Transitions are where everyone struggles, and many people give up. Transitions are the zone between one stage of growth and the next.  During transitions, you’ve left where you were, but you’re not yet where you need to be. Transitions are always uncomfortable. Letting go of what created success in the past is uncomfortable. Learning new behaviors and developing new beliefs that will create future success is also uncomfortable.

Since transitions are uncomfortable for your team members, it is essential that you become VERY comfortable helping people through them. Understanding what happens during transitions may help you become more comfortable and confident in helping people grow.

For someone to transition from one stage of growth to the next, 3 important things must happen during transitions.

  1. Release

 For growth to occur, people must first let go of beliefs and behaviors that helped them be successful in the past but will become a barrier to growth in the future. Some beliefs and behaviors you will keep with you through every stage of growth, but some will be liabilities in the future. For example: For someone to move from the first stage of growth (Task Equipped) to the second stage of growth (Emotionally Invested) the person must let go of just thinking about their performance and start thinking about the team’s performance.  They must also stop focusing just on the tasks and goals and start focusing on the process that creates the results. 

  1. Embrace

The person must then embrace the new beliefs and behaviors that will help them be successful in the next stage of growth.  Embrace is an “emotional” term. The key is embracing, not “accepting.” To embrace the new belief means that the person must see its value and importance and commit to learning it. Sometimes I see people accept the change but not embrace it. This is a receipt for no change. The first time something negative happens they retreat to the past, explaining why the future will not work. Your role at this point is to ask questions to understand where the resistance is and why it exists.

  1. Reinforce

 The final act is to reinforce the new beliefs and behaviors until they become new habits. Some of your team members will embrace new beliefs and behaviors quickly. These team members require little reinforcement because they reinforce it themselves. Other team members will require more reinforcement. Avoid categorizing those that resist change as failures, less than desirable, etc. Instead, explore the resistance. Understand what is at stake for them. Investing time is usually the key to helping them transition to the next stage of growth.

Keep in mind that most people are adapters. If you are consistent, caring, and constructive in your interaction with team members the overwhelming majority will adapt and move exactly where you need them to go. The others will self-select out of your organization. Either choice on their part is good for your organization. You want people in your organization that are engaged with growth. You don’t want people in your organization that look for ways to resist growth.


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