System as star, part 2: how do you manage the transition?

So thinking again about those lifers at GE from my original blog back in July, I’ve come to notice in my coaching conversations that once they leave the firm and move into new corporate cultures, former GE employees immediately feel the differences in style, technique, training and management culture. It’s not unusual for me to hear that their new landscape feels more opaque, less comprehensible creating a feeling of disconnection to their new employers, colleagues and tasks. As a coach I find myself helping them devise ways to take the intentional management techniques they developed at GE and turn them inward to manage their way through the transitional dip that occurs when we make a change in any aspect of our lives. Here are the three approaches that have been most instructive in helping my GE and other clients make a successful transition:

  1. Big change means big change: John Fisher’s Transitional curve has developed into a much referenced model for organizations supporting employees through organizational and professional change. High potentials I’ve coached who’ve on-ramped quickly into their new role accept that they will experience an emotional reaction to the professional move they are about to undertake. Moreover, they understand that shifting into a new role or company is likely to impact many if not all aspects of their existing routine. They counter the impacts of this change by adapting their routine, identifying where to delegate and dropping or postponing non-essential personal or professional tasks for the first 6-8 months in any new role.
  2. Change takes time: Research shows that it takes a new employee 6- 12 months to feel fully integrated into their new work environment. For high potentials it can be difficult to manage down expectations of impact in a new role as they benchmark against their high performance and productivity in a previous role. In my experience, clients who’ve been able manage their own expectations have been less anxious and better able to be productive quickly in their new environment.
  3. Build champions, and remember your allies: Network is key when it comes to a transition, and in his 2008 HBR article Boris Groysberg found that women are particularly adept at remaining stars performers in their new context due in part to their ability to build networks internally and externally to their organizations. A good way to think about your network is to divide it into those people who will be champions, and those who will be allies. Champions are people within your organization with whom you will evidence your skills, expert knowledge and successes. Expect that it will take some time to identify just who those internal champions will be for you. Your allies are people either inside, or more ideally, outside of your organization that understand your context and can provide unbiased advice about problems you are facing. Identifying allies and tapping them early seems to be a hallmark of success for the GE lifers I have coached, and it is a tactic I would recommend to anyone making a career or role transition.

The system really can be the star if it equips employees with the tools and tactics they need to manage change most effectively. I look forward to hearing your comments and stories on this topic, and let me know if these steps work for you next time you make a change, whether it is personal or professional.