The 5 P's of Transitional Leadership

Change and transition is difficult for many people. In fact, most of us have a love-hate relationship with change – maybe because we believe it will be painful, messy and disruptive despite knowing that if led and managed well it can result in significant improvement and growth.

Ask anyone in our city and they will tell you that everywhere they go they encounter a construction zone. Our freeway and roads have had major delays and new housing construction has created traffic jams of slow-moving cement trucks and heavy equipment. “Messy” and “disruptive” might not be strong enough terms! But the vision of smoother, wider roads and beautiful new neighborhoods helps us remain positive during the processes of change.

In business, as well as in life, it is impossible to experience growth without change, and if you don’t know how to effectively lead and manage change and transition you will encounter greater resistance and opposition no matter how positive or beneficial the change may be. Remember that change is the event; transition is the psychological and emotional response to the event.

Transitions have serious implications for organizations because employees will not follow their leaders willingly into yet more change unless they trust them. They need to believe in their leaders’ competence, credibility and motives. Practicing the 5 P’s of Transitional Leadership will help you build that trust.

Since so many of our workplace changes involve technology and upgrades, we will take our examples from that area. The principles below can be applied to other types of change as well.

In preparing for a change, the effective transitional leader will clearly identify and communicate…

  1. The Purpose “Why” – selling the problem as “all ours”

“Many of us have been making a tremendous effort for several years now to get the most out of our current database management system. We hear and understand your concerns about the limitations of our software and have decided to move forward with exploring new program options.”

  1. The Picture “What” – a shared vision of the outcome

“By working together, we believe we can purchase a replacement program that will substantially increase our efficiency and functionality and significantly decrease our stress and frustration. Based on budget projections, as well as the scope of the project, we believe it will be possible to have a new program selected and data segmentation and conversion completed within the next 15 to 18 months.”

  1. The Plan “How” – a shared scenario for getting there 

“The Executive Team will select individuals within the company who have experience, knowledge and expertise in the use and acquisition of software. The team will be led by our Chief Information Officer. Due to the scope and importance of this project, the Software Team will coordinate and conduct regular meetings with each department to receive input and suggestions as well as keep you all well informed of the progress and status of the project.”

  1. The Part “Who” – the role you and we play in our effort to get there

“Some of you will likely have significant interest and involvement in this project due to the degree to which you utilize and depend on our software system to complete your daily tasks and special projects. Others of you may have less interest and involvement due to the nature of your work, but we want everyone to know that your input and suggestions are always welcome. Within the next thirty-days, our team leader, along with input from the Executive Team, will contact those of you we would like to have serve on the team. Before you commit to serving on the team we will do our best to provide as much information as we can about your role as well as answer any questions you may have.”

  1. The Principle – No one is left behind

“The Executive Team is very excited about this project, but we know it will take a great commitment and a lot of hard work from many of you to see it through to successful completion. You have our commitment that we will do our best to not allow this special project to disrupt the day-to-day operations of the company or to create any unnecessary burden for any of you. We are all in this together and we all stand to benefit from this substantial investment by creating a more robust, efficient and reliable technology that will contribute to our future growth and profitability.”

I hope these principles help you navigate your next change, and I would like to hear from you about how you managed a change in the past or your plans for change in the future.

Live, Work and Relate Well!

Dr. Todd


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