Making Sense of Transitions

By Rachel Verlik, ACC

We have finished another election cycle in our great country. Regardless of which candidate you voted for, or how you feel about our country’s choice, a transition is imminent.

With any change in leadership strategy, or direction, there are consistent characteristics of transition.   These principles apply across multiple disciplines, and apply to personal, professional, societal, and organizational change.

William Bridges’ flagship book, “Transitions”, discusses three phases of transition: Endings, The Neutral Zone, and A New Beginning. Below is a brief description of each of the 3 phases:


This period is marked by the “D’s”: Disengagement, Dismantling, Disidentification, Disenchantment, and Disorientation.   As Bridges states, this period begins with something going wrong, and the need for change. There is a period of loss, and full recognizing this loss. There is fear, and often a lack of steady ground. It is important to let yourself and others experience the ending in its fullness, in order to move forward with the next phase. Change  is hard when you haven’t let go of the past.

The Neutral Zone:

This phase is what I like to call “the messy middle”.   You know too much about possibilities, but you are fearful of letting go of the past. You are essentially experiencing a death and a rebirth and trying to make sense of it all. It is human nature to want to rush the neutral zone, but resist the urge. Bridges says, “In fact, the neutral zone is a time when the real business of transition takes place. It is a time when an inner reorientation and realignment are occurring, a time when we are making the all-but-imperceptible shift from one season of life to the next.” Good news: The Neutral Zone is only intended to be a temporary residence.

A New Beginning:

Allowing the previous two phases their due time allows a new beginning to flourish.   New beginnings can by clunky, mistake-ridden, and fearful. And yet, move forward. Be less preoccupied with results, and more focused on the “why” and over reaching goal. Remember what spurred you to initiate or manage the change. This new beginning gives you new possibilities and opportunities that were not previously there.

Change is hard, messy, and yet, the only way to move ourselves, businesses, and societies is through change. Recognizing that there are stages to transitions allows a framework to make sense of change for ourselves and others.

(If you are interested in learning more about “Transitions,” following is a link to William Bridges’ book: )

If you’re interested on discussing how to navigate transitions in your organization with Rachel, schedule a complimentary consultation now.