Are you feeling stuck in the no-man’s land between the old and new? Believe it or not, that might just be the silver lining of the last 15 months. Maybe no-man’s land is exactly where you need to be. Many of you know Marcy Bradford, my right-hand for all things Logan Leadership. I bring her on as an associate consultant when I work with churches that are navigating change. She combines a deep understanding of no-man’s land with a heart for teams in transition and the result is the cultivation of hope, and greater unity and effectiveness. In the following blog post, Marcy shares about key landmarks you will encounter in the Neutral Zone.
Are you feeling stuck in the no-man’s land between the old and new? Believe it or not, that might just be the silver lining of the last 15 months. Click To Tweet
In his book, Managing Transitions, William Bridges called the space between the Old and the New, the Neutral Zone. Failure to recognize the landmarks of no-man’s land and navigate through the Neutral Zone well hampers effective change.
Typically hailed as the zenith of the Christian walk, mountaintop experiences were explored visually and symbolically by one pastor. He described the journey to the mountaintop beginning on a path through a cool, lush river valley. The path led up to miles of leg-straining, steep climb through trees so dense that it was difficult to watch one’s step and trips and falls were a regular occurrence. Unable to keep an eye on the goal, the traveler gets disoriented and wanders miles off course. When the trees started to thin, the ground dried up and started to crumble causing insecure footing and backwards sliding. As the top became visible, giant boulders loomed ahead and as one attempted to traverse them, a cold and powerful wind threatened your grip at every turn.
Reaching the mountaintop is indeed a glorious and powerful experience but it doesn’t take long for one to feel the scratches and bruises, the spent and aching muscles. The traveler collapses at the peak and the view is incredible. But it is cold and exposed on the barren mountaintop. The beauty lies in the growth and even the adventure that occurred on the path.
Let’s call the the path between the Old mountaintops and the New mountaintops the Neutral Zone.
The Neutral Zone
Some things never change—we tend to grumble in the wilderness. And the Neutral Zone is quite accurately described as a wilderness. The path through the Neutral Zone is not clear, the goal cannot be seen; it’s confusing and unstable but it is a necessary journey.
Yet it’s not all bad. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention and people will look for and discover ways to overcome the hardships found in the season. People find a way when they must. When people let go of what was, creativity and innovation can flourish. New ideas and ways of doing things are more easily adopted in the Neutral Zone.
Landmarks found in the Neutral Zone
When mapping the Neutral Zone, each individual circumstance will be different but they all will share some commonality. No matter what the change is, you will encounter these two basic landmarks of transition:
As mentioned above, innovation is a natural occurrence in the Neutral Zone. People try all kinds of new things because it feels like there’s nothing to lose in no-man’s land. Over the last 15 months, it is the creativity and innovation that has brought us joy. Entire neighborhoods sang from their balconies and offered hope with the persistence and resilience of community. Social media accounts dedicated to Good News popped up all over the place. People invented masks that protect while allowing those with hearing, mental, and emotional challenges to see the smile and read the lips of the wearer. Others developed tests that identify Covid-19 and then made them faster and more accurate until they could be purchased over the counter and completed at home. Church leaders shared the Word of God from new platforms and in new ways.
We are still in a season ripe for creativity and innovation. Fostering creativity can be as simple as asking for and listening to ideas that your staff and congregation have been thinking on or even developing on their own. Here are some other things to think about:
- What areas of your ministry could use a fresh approach?
- Are there old issues that can be revisited with the lens of looking for fresh solutions?
- What steps can you take to make people feel free to be creative and innovate?
- How are you going to encourage and celebrate new ideas?
If you missed the Logan Leadership blog on Letting Go, you can find it HERE.
Letting go is not a one and done event. There are real and deep connections to the way things were. We need to revisit loss often and with respect. Think of the Israelites in the wilderness and their temptation to return to captivity in Egypt. In Egypt they had houses, food, water, and community. All of that was either threatened or already gone in the wilderness. In a time of transition, when you start to feel and hear from others a desire to get back to “normal,” it’s time to revisit letting go.
- What are people missing, or even mourning, in this season?
- How can you respect the past without going back there?
- In what ways can you reassure yourself and others that you are on the right track?
- What temporary systems can be created to meet these needs?
Effective Listening Resources- Working at being a good listener is just as important as making your ideas understandable to others. This collection of resources can help you assess, build skills, and coach others to be more effective listeners.
Creativity and Innovation Resources– You have the opportunity to translate your unique personal perspectives and views of the world into new ideas and concepts that might be useful to you and to others. You can help other people to think beyond their existing mental boundaries or provide fresh insights that can take their thinking to entirely new planes. This collection of resources can help you assess, build skills, and coach others to tap into and strengthen their ability to be creative and innovative.
Change Management Resources- One of the key life competencies required of people today, in all kinds of different situations, is the ability to anticipate and respond effectively to change. By demonstrating effective change agent skills, we will be able to lead ourselves, individuals and groups in implementing actions that enable vision to be transformed into reality. This collection of resources can help you assess, build skills, and coach others to be more effective agents of change.