I am in the middle of the transition to my new role.  For me, the middle is the least comfortable part of any transition. I think this is because I want to be constantly moving forward and instead of being in limbo, want to move quickly to decision and action.

In his book, Transitions, William Bridges outlines three steps of transition that every individual go through when change happens. The first is an ending, the second is a neutral zone, between the old and the new, and finally, the third step is a new beginning. He argues that every successful transition has all of these phases that need to be fully experienced and that most of us are not comfortable making transitions even though we are constantly changing.

One piece of advice that Bridges gives is to not try to rush the neutral zone, but to take time to be alone in order to make the mental and emotional transition from the old to the new. This includes understanding what you want to leave behind and what you want to create and who you want to be as you move forward.

I thought I was following that advice when I scheduled almost a month between my old and new job. However, in retrospect, I filled that time with many activities and didn’t really take much time to be alone and introspect.

My final full week in Ann Arbor has been a time for connections with several walks with dear friends through the Arboretum and cherished meals with wonderful colleagues. I have been busy packing and sorting getting ready for my new life in Philadelphia. I also have been sick all week with a summer cold.

I have noticed that often when I am in transition, I get sick. The first time I noticed this was at the end of each semester in college, when I would literally collapse into bed after completing my last final. And, often after completing a major project, I would come down with something after all of the stress had dissipated. This week as I have been forced to slow down to let my body heal, I have come to the conclusion that this is a mechanism that I personally use to slow down and give myself space away from activity and time to recover.

I am excited and curious about this next step in my transition to a leader at Temple University and recognize that this transition feels better than previous job changes. I am not anxious and have continued to use the tools that I have learned to stay at peace. Understanding that I don’t need to have all the answers, I haven’t made a 90-day plan of things I want to make sure will happen as I start my new job.  Instead, I have written a positive intention to listen, understand, and work collaboratively with my new colleagues to create a shared culture and vision. I am eager to see what we create together.

My challenge to you this week is to notice where you are in the transitions in your life and give yourself the time, space, and permission to experience all of the different steps in your own personal transitions.


Achieving Ambitious Goals

IMG_0908This week I have been on vacation with my extended family in Breckenridge, Colorado. When we got to Colorado, we made an ambitious goal of hiking one of the mountains that is higher than 14,000 feet. Colorado natives refer to these peaks at 14ers. We chose Quandary Peak. At 14,265 feet, it is the tallest mountain in the 10 mile range that includes Breckenridge. It was categorized as “difficult” on the Top ten hikes around Breckenridge web page that we found. The hike is long and very steep, gaining 3450 ft in around 3 ½ miles. We had just come from sea level and knew we were going to need to acclimate to the high altitude before we made the attempt.

In order to get ready, we planned a couple of warm-up hikes that were marked “moderate.” We realized that a mid-westerner view of moderate and a western view of moderate are different on the first hike that we made to Mohawk Lakes. It may have been the extra two miles from the parking lot to the trailhead that are not included in the distance quoted for the hike. Or that we wandered off the trail and ended up scaling large rocks next to a waterfall. The waterfall ascent was too much for our youngest daughter and niece, who both opted to wait for the rest of us to return. Impressively, my niece’s husband completed the climb with his 7-month daughter strapped to him in a front pack. Luckily we found the trail on the way back down and didn’t have to try to climb down the same way.


Our daughters opted out of our second warm up hike, so Mark and I went with my brother and his wife. It was a beautiful and rewarding hike to McCullough Gulch. It gave me confidence that we could do the Quandary Peak hike the next day.

The only takers for the Quandary Peak hike were Mark, me and our two daughters. We were on the trail by 6:10 in the morning wanting to be off the mountain before any afternoon thunder showers rolled in. Most of the hike is above the tree line and on loose, granite rocks. It was difficult, steep, and long. We encountered our first of a family of mountain goats on the first ridge which was unexpected and interesting.

IMG_0982As we started the long final ascent, it was necessary for me to change my focus and goal setting. Instead of focusing at the top of the peak, I started focusing on walking fifty steps before needing to stop and catch my breath. Hikers who were on their way down were encouraging and motivating by telling us we were close and that the view was well worth the climb.

They were right. The view from the top was spectacular and it felt great to have accomplished such a challenging feat. It was also very satisfying to see the excitement and sense of accomplishment in my husband and daughters.

The most difficult mental part of the hike was the descent. I probably should have anticipated this, but it surprised me. We endlessly picked a path through the rocks, trying to minimize the jarring and not sprain any ankles or knees. We all ended up coming down at our own pace and spread out down the mountain. After the hike we were all tired and very satisfied that we had accomplished such a hard and rewarding goal.

Growth happens when we push outside of our comfort zone and try to achieve something that is worthwhile and hard. Do you have any goals that are stretching you out of your comfort zone? If not, think of how you might challenge yourself in the coming week.


Leadership Lessons Riding in a Peloton

I participated in One Helluva Ride last Saturday and had an amazing time riding 66 miles in a peloton with my husband and a couple of our good friends. For those of you who are not familiar with cycling, a peloton is when a team of riders forms a line and works together so they can all go faster and longer than any of them could individually. Below are a few valuable leadership principles that I have learned from riding in a peloton that I would like to share.

Safety is the most important priority. Riding a bicycle is dangerous and riding fast and closely behind another cyclist increases the risks. It is very important to know and abide by the safety guidelines when you are riding in a peloton and to know and trust your team members. At work, mental and emotional safety are critical so that people are willing to take risks, be creative, and work as a team to solve complex problems. As a leader, this means that you foster a safe environment that builds trust among all team members. A big part of that is establishing clear guidelines and boundaries.

Leadership is shared, roles are clear, and constant communication is vital. In a peloton, the position in the line determines the role of the rider. The line is shifting every few minutes when the leader of the line moves to the back of the line after their shift is done. Communication happens with a combination of hand signals and verbal signals that are clearly understood by each rider. The first person in the peloton is responsible for scanning the horizon, communicating back to others in the line, and setting the pace and direction. The last person is line is responsible for monitoring what is behind the group and communicating forward. Each rider in the middle passes every communication along and also communicates anything they notice, like a slowdown in front of them or someone in the line falling behind.

A peloton team works best when the members together establish shared goals for the ride, including the destination or length of the ride, the expected pace, and the duration of the pulls. At work, when I have had the pleasure of being on a team where everyone is aligned, willing to adjust their roles, and openly communicating, it has been effective and fun.

Managing energy is the key to optimal performance. The main advantage of riding in a peloton is that drafting behind someone takes about 30% less energy than riding alone or at the front of the peloton. Optimal performance happens when each person in a peloton is going at a pace that pushes them when they are leading and allows them to recover when they are not. Each rider has to be conscious that they will hit their limit (aka bonking) if they take the lead for too long or are traveling at a stressful pace when they are not in the lead. If this is happening, they need to communicate that the peloton should slow down or choose a group that is going at a pace that is more appropriate for their fitness level.

Acceleration requires a tremendous amount of energy, so riding at a steady and sustainable pace and avoiding frequent stops and starts conserves energy for the entire team. One of the things that is hardest for me is not accelerating when I get to the front of the peloton because there is a natural feeling of freedom that happens when you are looking up instead of at the tire in front of you. Jumping ahead of the team wastes energy and exhausts the rest of the team.

This translates directly to what it takes to be a leader. If you are constantly stretching and end up stressed with no recovery time, you will become exhausted and burned out. Make sure you and your team have recovery time, are working at a sustainable pace, and are not constantly starting and stopping projects. And make sure that you are not getting too far ahead of the rest of the team, so that they don’t waste energy trying to chase you down.

My challenge for you this week is to look at your current work teams and see how well they are working together. Hopefully, some of these peloton principles can help make your teams even better.  Good luck!

Power Cycling Bloomington Training Camp Photo taken by Jeremy Zeigler

Spreading Freedom

I just finished my last week at the University of Michigan. As I contemplated what would be the most valuable thing that I could do as I was leaving, I decided to offer an intensive class that would cover concepts from the Fear to Freedom coaching that has been so impactful for me and many others who went through the program. The actual coaching program is six weeks long and that time commitment can limit the number of participants.

I had developed a one-hour class for a women’s conference at the request of a friend and taught two sessions that allowed me to refine the content. The responses from the conference participants were incredible. One of the women who attended told me it was life-changing and had fundamentally changed the way she thought of taking care of herself. She said that even her unconscious choices were now more aligned with who she wanted to be. That feedback gave me the confidence and motivation to teach the concepts more broadly. I had evidence that a one-hour investment could change someone’s life for the better.

I sent out the invitation broadly to IT professionals at the medical school, hospital, and across campus. The response was enthusiastic and we had to add an additional class to accommodate the demand. Since we wanted this to continue after I leave, April Jefferson, our culture coach, taught the classes with me.

We crammed a lot into an hour. After introducing the Fear to Freedom model, we brought in Brene Brown’s work about shame and suggested that much of our fear is about “not being enough”. We talked about Jim Loehr‘s research on the power of story and how we needed to increase our positive energy to change.

Then the real work began. We asked each participant to take seven minutes to write their current story about something they wanted to make substantial progress on in four weeks. They were instructed to write without filters. Brene Brown calls this the s*****y first draft. After the writing was finished, each participant rated their story from 0 to 10, with 0 being in complete fear and 10 being in complete freedom. We talked about what we observed and learned. Many people commented on how much they were in fear. I could relate. I used to live on the fear side. Now I visit, but have learned how to recognize that I am choosing fear and I do my best to move to freedom.

After talking about building shame resilience, we introduced the rules of writing a positive written intention and asked each person to take seven minutes to rewrite their story in past tense with the best outcome they can imagine. In every session, this was incredibly powerful. The shift in energy in the room is noticeable. The participants rated their new story on the fear to freedom scale. Almost everyone in the class moved toward freedom. Some participants described the new feeling of confidence that they could meet their challenge and were motivated to take concrete steps toward improvement.

The feedback from the class has been very positive. One incredibly talented and competent young professional told me that the timing and information were critical for her. She had always struggled with self-doubt and assumed she could “achieve” her way out of it. The class made her realize that many seemingly successful people struggle with those same feelings. She would offer evidence to the contrary when her colleagues expressed self-doubt but she wasn’t as generous with herself and kept perpetuating her own negative self story. She expressed how much the class meant to her. She and her friend were starting “The Gifts of Imperfection“ by Brene Brown to build their shame resistance and move toward freedom. This made me very happy.

My challenge for you this week is to choose something you want to change and write two stories; your current story and your new story as a positive written intention. I would love to hear about your experiences.

Here are the references from the class in case you want to read more.
Brene Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.
Brene Brown, Rising Strong
Jim Loehr, The Power of Story
Desmond and Mpho Tutu, The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World
Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell, Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life