Transitions can be difficult. Even the most thought-out and well-designed transitions can be stressful. When we are leading in ministry, transitions are something we come to expect. People in our communities move on, someone on our staff transitions out, we have to let people go, or sometimes transition is forced upon us.
If we are not careful, we can easily allow our minds to spin in unhealthy directions. Many times during transition, we do not know all of the details or variables. We have to work with what we know. And if we are not intentional about our thoughts, we can allow our minds to assume we know answers that we don’t know. This often leads to miscommunication and assumptions that are not helpful for the transition.
As leaders, one of the most important things we can do is manage our thoughts during challenging transitions. Here are some ideas that may help:
Stick with the facts. Don’t try to guess what might be going on. Stick with the facts you know. Ask questions. Try to keep the communication lines as open as possible with all sides.
Process with someone. On our team, it is important that we are continually processing our thoughts with our leader. Transitions can be messy and involve emotions, especially when they are particularly challenging. Processing is not the same as complaining. It is simply being honest about how you are feeling and what you are working through during the transition. A rule on our team is that we always process “up” with our leader, and never sideways or below us. This helps keep the communication lines open and ensure that we are processing in a healthy way.
Show grace. Remember that challenging transitions often have strong emotions around it. People may not always act in the most grace-filled ways during the transition. Show others grace as they make their way through this time, but also be sure to show yourself grace. Sometimes these situations bring up old wounds or feelings that people do not expect. Showing grace can make all the difference.
Focus on what you can control. During transitions, there are often many things you can’t control. But the things you absolutely can control are your thoughts. You have the power to choose what you are thinking at any moment. You have the power to recognize your thoughts and be able to observe them with curiosity. From there, you can determine whether the thoughts are helpful or harmful. This place of understanding how important your thoughts are changes everything. It allows you to focus on your own energy and what you are bringing to the transition. It allows you to recognize that the reason you are feeling a certain way is because of a thought you are thinking about the situation. When we learn to observe our thoughts and feelings, we can then learn to change those thoughts, which will result in different actions.
Think about a difficult transition you have walked through. Did you approach it with negativity? Were you suspicious of the details? How did those thoughts impact how smoothly the transition went?
Now think about a difficult transition that you approached in a more positive way. How did it feel when you were completely supportive and willing to work with the person in transition instead of fighting against them? Did it feel differently than when you approached a situation with negativity? Most likely it did.
During transitions, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotions and the drama that can sometimes follow. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We have the power to observe our thoughts, keep a clear head, and make the transition as smooth and beneficial for all parties involved.
As leaders of our communities, it’s also important to remember that people are watching us. We’re showing them how to navigate transition. Let’s do our best to make sure it’s as healthy as possible.