Our 17 year old started his senior year in high school, got his provisional license, started a new job at a café and inherited his grandfathers 2001 Buick Century, all within two months. Today he had a moment of transition while standing in the kitchen preparing to go to work. He picked up the lanyard holding a door key he has worn since grade school. In his other hand, he was holding the key ring to the car. I watched him pause, look at both and make a decision to move the key ring from the lanyard to the car keys.

He didn’t realize I saw him. I spoke up and said, “A big moment isn’t it? Leaving something from childhood and moving toward being an adult?” He looked at me and with a big smile, said “Uh huh”, and thoughtfully nodded yes.

Often the larger transitions in life are marked by small indicators.

At work, maybe you’ve been given an opportunity to show your abilities, accepting challenges and responsibilities, preparing you for promotion. Maybe the promotion has already come, and now you’re in the same place our son was, when you realize that you have a lot to learn, new expectations and responsibilities. You’re entrusted with the keys; you’re wearing a shirt without your name on the front; your office is larger, your desk is different; you push a different floor button on the elevator; people report to you, or some other indication that things have changed.

Stop and take it in. Take a moment to recognize what it took to get there, and appreciate those who helped you prepare for the challenge.

What moment have you had similar to this that required learning something new? Maybe you took on a challenge at work, a new hobby, or did something at home that was unfamiliar to you? Did you stop and realize the small things that were indicators of your growth? Those small things like the lanyard and key ring, the award pin, a plaque, or the photos with people indicate transitions, and the new levels of confidence.

My father recently passed away at 100 years old. For 30 or so years, while talking to strangers, friends, family (including me), he would almost always turn to his WWII experiences, starting with the phrase, “when I was in the army we…” or “during the war, we…” During one of our conversations, I interrupted and asked “why do you so often recall your military experiences?” He paused for a very brief moment and said, “That’s when a boy, became a man”.

As my sister and I were going through his things after he passed, we found his Honorable Discharge, and other memorabilia. What we didn’t know until our Congressional Representative called about honoring Dad for his service was that he earned the “Bronze Star” for an act of bravery. Oddly, he never spoke of it, or his other awards. We also found his business and professional licenses for more than 30 years in an envelope along with other items tucked into a small, worn cigar box. But what we found, and what touched us the most among his things, was that he kept a stack of Father’s Day cards he’d received from us. I think he realized that each card indicated changes and growth, and he also accepted his changes that influenced our lives and those we influence. Each card, each year, embodied a brief message of transition, success and legacy.

Life’s transitions are important and often significant to our present, future, and past.

Transition solutions:

  • Respect and treasure the moment.
  • Determine if memorabilia should be kept.
  • Decide: is this a private or public moment, or both?
  • Stop, take a deep breath, and let it settle in.
  • Be “it”. It’s who you’ve ‘become’.
  • Ask others about their transition. Listen for emotions (values) and information (what, who, and why)

Especially for Managers and Leaders:

  • Respect the changes others experience.
  • Allow for transition. It takes time for the shoe to fit well. Let the new person know it takes time, 5 weeks +/-, and remind them of this during the process. This will help depressurize and take the stress off the learning curve for them.
  • Remember, perspective changes in “ah-ha” moments. It can’t happen until it happens.
  • Ask if they are familiar with, and then explain vocabulary or acronyms. Recall your feelings of not knowing meanings and titles in the new environment.
  • Acknowledgement reduces stress, increases productivity, loyalty, and builds team spirit. (Others know, understand, and I’m not alone).
  • Tell your transition “story”. “I know how I felt when I…”. (Caution: don’t use “I know how you feel”. Their feelings may be different that yours were).


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