The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

From change to transition

These times are full of learning. There is no day like the other.

That is true even, if moving from one zoom meeting to another may feel like constantly doing the same thing.

Attending a webinar on the subject of “leading transitions in times of disruptive change” I was reminded of the complexity of the many changes we are dealing with.

Since COVID appeared the list of changes has been endless. And yet, basically, it is one change: COVID is there and wasn’t before.

Starting with its appearance we’ve had to deal with that change. It is a transition process we all are in. That is we are learning to give meaning to this new situation we are in. Not as new as it was when we started to encounter it. But new in many ways.

It is as if we all were discovering a new culture. From being in a COVID-free world, we moved into a COVID-aware culture and discovering our new role. Some of us know how it feels to move from one culture to the other and to learn to find our ways there.

It starts with a phase where everything sounds great and looks beautiful. We were discovering how home-office actually worked much better than we thought. Or maybe how nice it felt to stay at home and discover a commute-free life, more time in the day, and how other people’s homes look like.

But after a while fatigue sets in. Everything needs to be learned anew. There is a new language to be learned (how do you get together in a virtual meeting showing your homes?), interacting with our team has changed (who is the boss again?), adding a comment to the discussion is becoming challenging (where is the unmute button? And how come I’m always too slow to push it?) and it’s awkward how people have become so impatient (Do we all hasten to the next meeting? When do we get our work done?).

All quite normal experiences when transitioning from one culture to the other. And yet, uncomfortable as we have to change the way we step into our role. There is uncertainty about almost every aspect of our role.

It’s an uncertainty that is accompanied by major changes in all the tasks we have to attend to. When meeting meant to find the right room in the past, it is today about managing all the links to the rooms where we’ll find ourselves meeting. From handling geography, we moved towards organizing the spaces in our calendars. From having easy-going chitchat before starting a meeting we’ve moved into organizing coffee time, wine tasting, or water cooler virtual meetings.

Our roles now come with new and unknown tasks. All of which needed to be learned.

But the most complicated change for most is to realize that we can’t push our emotions away. That we’ve got to become aware of what they are and how to understand them. The less we attend to this task, the more we disconnect from others.

Without an understanding of our own emotions in these times, we fail in our ability to empathize with others. That’s because our own experience is too overwhelming to remain able to welcome other people’s experiences and emotions. Meaning that if we can’t lead ourselves, we can’t lead others.


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