Sometimes, we don’t know what we don’t know. We can’t see what has not been shown to us. Our past experience is not sufficient to explain what we are experiencing right at this moment.

Yet, if we listen and pay attention, we’ll see that we are in transition. We may only know it intuitively. We feel it in our gut.

People tell me every day that they are in transition.

Yet, when I ask them what they mean, they often don’t have the right words to describe it.

They feel a conflict between their sense of being in transition and the social pressure to be strong and cool.

We need to manage our transitions with conversation. When we talk, we need to be guided by a framework that helps us understand where our individual transitions are leading.

Here’s one such conversation.


A Change in Perception

A mid-40ish businessman stood next to my table as I was signing copies of my book. He was waiting for his family to finish their shopping.

After a brief introduction, I asked him, “So, what do you do?” He told me he was a team leader at the company where he works.

“How’s that working for you?”

“Got a good team working with me.”

I asked. “Is everyone on the same page? All clear about the purpose of your work together?”

He turned and looked at me. “No. Not really. It’s a constant challenge.”


“How about respect for your team and their work?”

“No. It is an issue that members of the team speak about often.”


“What do you think the source of the disrespect is?”

“Our team has only internal customers. We support the teams that work with the company’s clients. The problem is that it isn’t clear what they need from us. You’d think it would be, but it isn’t.”


Then, I ask, “Are you saying that there is a kind of disconnection between the various parts of the company? The layers and silos essentially work in isolation from one another?”

“Yes. How’d you know?”

“See it all the time. It is the natural state of chaos.

You know … it doesn’t have to be this way.”

In this short conversation, I wanted to know if his company was in transition. His responses confirmed it. More importantly he now understands that the problems the company faces are not just normal operating conditions. The company is in transition, and now he knows it.

Three Circle of Impact Questions

In the conversation, I intentionally asked three questions based upon my Circle of Impact leadership model.

Is the team clear about its purpose and the values that guide its work?

Is there respect in the relationships within the team and with their internal clients?

Is the operating structure fragmented or cohesive?

These questions are not just for C-suite executives. These are the questions that every person within a company should be asking.

These three questions are relevant to everyone regardless of who they are and what they do.

Every person and every organization has a unique perception of their experience of transition. However, the problems that accompany transitions are universally the same, and can be addressed in a consistent manner.


The Important Difference between Transition and Change 

When a person or a company experiences transition, they often think that this is about change.

Transitions are not the same as the experience of change.

Change can be accidental, disruptive, or random. We enter change processes with the expectations that we’ll get through it, and things will return to normal. We adapt and accommodate to preserve the ways we have always done things.

Transitions are different.

A community leader recently described to me the difference that he saw between transition and change.

“People think of change like it is being tossed off an island into a river only to swim back to the island. Transition is different. It is like always being in the river.”

Transition is a developmental process that is not always a function of organizational intention. It can be advancement or decline brought about by changes in the environment of the business, its culture and the market for its product.

For an individual, their transition could be a reevaluation of their life’s purpose. Or, a new found independence through a loss of a spouse or sale of a business. Or, it could come from a desire to make a difference that their current job does not allow.

Transition is not a destination, but the journey before us.

Our current transition can be unseen or imperceptible. We wake up in the middle in the night, aware that something has changed, but we cannot pinpoint it. We know intuitively that something is changing. But do not have the perspective to see it.

It is also like walking up to some guy signing books in a bookstore who then asks us three questions, and in a quick moment our perception changes.


Where Transition Should Lead

Since Circle of Impact was published almost a year ago, my interaction with people has been almost totally about the transitions that they are experiencing. It has been some of the most interesting and enjoyable work that I have ever had.

I am just the guy who asks the questions. I am not the guy who tells them what they should do.

For many people, they have been given too much advice, and have not been asked enough questions. The result is that they never develop the capacity to ask themselves the questions that provide clarity about where they are in the midst of transition.

I have two types of conversations.

There are ones about the person. The range of issues are broad. Yet, almost all of them concern some unrealized aspect of their lives that their transition is leading them toward.

There are also ones about the functioning of organizations. The conversation above is typical.

When I say that we are all in transition, all the time. I include myself in this group. My encounters with people have helped me to realize that I am in a greater transition now than at any time in my life. With that awareness comes freedom and excitement about the future.

I’ll have more to say about my transition soon. To be the first to know the specifics, go to my website, and sign up for my newsletter, Circle of Initiators.

If you realize that you are in transition, the first step to take is to understand where your transition is leading you. To understand this is a product of your own self-perception. The clearer and more focused it is the stronger sense of purpose you will have for you life. To be able to say that this is where my transition is leading will bring greater confidence and a sense of peace about your place in the world going forward. I wish that for each of you who read this post.

Note: My book Circle of Impact can provide you the perspective that you need to see yourself or your business from a new perspective. You can find links to booksellers at



Dr. Ed Brenegar is a Leader for Leaders working with individuals, their teams, organizations and communities who find themselves at a point of transition. Ed has developed an innovative leadership model called, Circle of Impact, that clarifies what the impact of their life or the work of their organization can be. From this perspective, impact is the change that makes a difference that matters. Ed. for over 30 years, has inspired and equipped people and organizations to practice this fresh understanding of leadership. All leadership begins with personal initiative to create impact that makes a difference that matters. Everyone within an organization or a community can, therefore, practice leadership initiative. In so doing, they turn what were once leadership-starved organizations into leader-rich cultures that make a difference that matters.

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