June 29, 2023 Navigating Change and Transition

Change. This word evokes a variety of emotions for different people—excitement, fear, curiosity and anxiety are some of the most common responses.

Over the past couple of years, I have worked hard to move past associating change with challenge. I now embrace that change is a natural part of a learning experience that ultimately leads to growth.

We live in a complex, ever-evolving world. Individuals and organizations with a high adaptability quotient, the ability to adapt to and thrive in an environment of change, are the ones experiencing the most joy and success. They understand that change represents a learning opportunity and can result in improved performance and growth. They actively choose curiosity and excitement over fear and anxiety.

This shift in mindset occurred for me after engaging in professional development with leaders from the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) and exploring the anatomy of a learning experience pictured above. The point on the curve that represents a “learning opportunity” can be any change that presents itself in your life—a new job or responsibility, transition to a different school or grade level, shift in program or resources, change in leadership, expanding your social circle, joining a new team, or exploring a skill or idea for the first time.

At this point in the experience, we have a choice. We can stay in our comfort zone and maintain the status quo in our lives, or we can lean forward knowing we may experience some stress and discomfort in the beginning as we “Go Against the Grain” (GAG). Those who elect to stay long enough in the GAG zone, and choose to wrestle with the discomfort instead of avoiding it, will eventually enter the recovery zone and reap the benefits in performance growth. The individuals and organizations that remain in the comfort zone and resist change, quickly become irrelevant or left behind in our fast-paced society.

It isn’t easy work. In addition to a growth-mindset, you need a strong support system that provides direction, alignment and commitment. A healthy dose of humility and humor will go a long way, too!

For fellow Ted Lasso fans, the anatomy of a learning experience and the benefits of leaning into the discomfort of change were beautifully illustrated in season three when Coach Lasso decides the team is going to change their tactical system to the “Total Football” approach. This new approach shifts players from having an individualized, defined, fixed position to having collaborative, fluid roles that frequently interchange depending on the development of each play. This requires a different mindset and a high level of communication, adaptability, and teamwork. There was a stretch of messy practices and games for Coach Lasso’s team that were filled with miscommunication, frustration, and poor performances. Despite the early losses they incurred, Coach Lasso and the Richmond Greyhounds stayed in the GAG zone long enough and didn’t give up on the Total Football system. Their commitment and ability to adapt and lean into the changes eventually resulted in a newly connected team with improved overall performance. The season isn’t over yet at the time I’m writing this, but I predict they will end up winning the championship when the season ends.

Our Christ Church Day School community has also had the gift of experiencing significant change this past year. A new School Board, new Head of School, shift in cultural expectations, changes to operating policies and procedures, adjustments in faculty positions, and the restart and start to several special events and activities. It has been beautiful and messy as we are living in the GAG zone together. Messy because we have had our share of miscommunication, frustration, and less than ideal moments in our school days. Beautiful because we have had our share of connection, joy, and aha-moments while we are learning and growing as a result of our decision to lean forward into the changes.

We could have easily stayed comfortable where we were as a school community and avoided the challenges and messy parts. However, our vision, purpose and mission call us to be strong and courageous.

The vision for Christ Church Day School is, “developing successful individuals by bringing learning to life.” Our purpose is, “to ensure that students are provided a quality learning environment which meets their developmental and individual needs and encourages their full potential.” And our mission is, “to engage students to reason, create, serve, and lead in a nurturing, inclusive Episcopal learning environment.” We knew maintaining the status quo was not a sustainable option because we would not be serving the evolving needs of our students and we would miss out on the opportunities for growth that we are starting to experience in our community. The mess is worth it to realize our full potential!

The school year isn’t over yet, but I predict we will head into summer with increased levels of happiness and success as we enter the recovery zone of our learning experience.

My hope is that we will have a great sense of pride for all that we have accomplished, and we will have a connected, committed community that will be positioned to thrive in the years ahead.

I am grateful to be part of a community that leans into the discomfort that comes along with change and remains focused on life-long learning and growth.

It is not the change or challenge that defines us or our experience, it is how we choose to respond.

Change is inevitable. Growth is optional. —John Maxwell