Navigating Leadership Transitions, a compilation of guidelines from LWS

Leading with Spirit

How to Navigate and Manage Successful Transitions

Life is constantly in transition and organizations reflect this. The dynamics of transitions, especially abrupt or unforeseen/unplanned changes in leadership positions, require conscious attention to an array of factors. The following article outlines some key areas that are helpful to consider in moving through and managing a successful transition. It borrows from important work from a variety of sources.

Understanding Transitions (William Bridges)

The Bridges Transition Model helps organizations and individuals understand and more effectively manage and work through the personal and human side of change. The model identifies the three stages an individual experiences during change: Ending What Currently Is, The Neutral Zone and The New Beginning. Developed by William Bridges, the Bridges Transition Model has been used by leaders and management consultants for more than thirty years.

What is the difference between change and transition?

Change is the external event or situation that takes place: a new business strategy, a turn of leadership, a merger or a new product. The organization focuses on the desired outcome that the change will produce, which is generally in response to external events. Change can happen very quickly.

Transition is the inner psychological process that people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the new situation that the change brings about. Empathetic leaders recognize that change can put people in crisis. The starting point for dealing with transition is not the outcome but the endings that people have in leaving the old situation behind.

Change will only be successful if leaders and organizations address the transition that people experience during change. Supporting people through transition, rather than pushing forward is essential if the change is to work as planned. This is key to capitalizing on opportunities for innovation and creating organizational resilience.

What are the stages of transition?


Transition starts with an ending. This is paradoxical but true. This first phase of transition begins when people identify what they are losing and learn how to manage these losses. They determine what is over and being left behind, and what they will keep. These may include relationships, processes, team members or locations.

Neutral Zone

The second step of transition comes after letting go: the neutral zone. People go through an in-between time when the old is gone but the new isn’t fully operational. It is when the critical psychological realignments and repatternings take place. It is the very core of the transition process. This is the time between the old reality and sense of identity and the new one. People are creating new processes and learning what their new roles will be. They are in flux and may feel confusion and distress. The neutral zone is the seedbed for new beginnings.

New Beginnings

Beginnings involve new understandings, values and attitudes. Beginnings are marked by a release of energy in a new direction – they are an expression of a fresh identity. Well-managed transitions allow people to establish new roles with an understanding of their purpose, the part they play, and how to contribute and participate most effectively. As a result, they feel reoriented and renewed.

What is the transition management process?

Transition management in organizations addresses the inner psychological process that people experience during change. Successful transition management involves these steps:

  1. Communicating with the organization about why the change is needed.
  2. Collecting information from those affected by the change to understand its impact on them. Gaining their investment in the outcome.
  3. Doing an audit of the organizations’ transition readiness.
  4. Educating leaders about how the change will affect individuals in the organization to manage the transition effectively.
  5. Monitoring the progress of individuals as they go through the three stages of transition.
  6. Helping individuals understand how they can positively contribute to the change and the importance of their role in the organization.

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A Checklist of HR Tips for Sudden Leadership Transitions

When an important leader makes an abrupt exit from your company, the departure can leave your employees, customers and even the remaining leaders feeling uncertain.

Unanswered questions can inspire rumors about the past and cast doubts over your company’s future. That’s why it’s imperative to communicate well when there’s a sudden change in leadership.

Whether you’re dealing with this situation now or want to be prepared in the future, let’s talk through:

  • What can you say to employees?
  • What can you tell your customers?
  • How much detail should you give about the person’s departure?
  • What should be done if they don’t take the news well?
  • How can a leader reassure everyone that things will be fine?

When you’re speaking with employees and customers, these communication guidelines will give you a solid strategy for getting everyone moving forward together.


  1. Assign communication responsibilities.
  2. Acknowledge the change quickly.
  3. Stick to the facts and future.
  4. Confirm what won’t change.
  5. Give details relative to level of involvement.
  6. Be mindful of compliance.
  7. Acknowledge conflicting values when needed.
  8. Let employees move through the change cycle.
  9. Remember these notes to self.

As part of the interim or replacement leadership team, you’ll likely be going through your own change cycle in the wake of a colleague’s sudden departure.

To stay positive and productive yourself, don’t forget to:

  • Avoid criticizing the outgoing leader.
  • Value the work that’s been done.
  • Ask employees what the former leader did well.
  • Ask what the former leader could have done better.
  • Keep an eye out for new leaders who step up.


by Insperity Staff | Human Resource Advisor | Houston, Texas

Leadership and management

Factors Contributing to Successful Transitions (a compilation by Leading with Spirit)

  1. There is an agreement that you are facing a transition and that it needs attention to assure that the community and individuals are supported through the change in a good way.
  2. There is an agreement that management of the transition process will require additional time, energy and resources and a group of trusted people are empowered to provide leadership on behalf of the whole and are supported by existing groups and individuals.
  3. The value of outside advice, support, coaching or facilitation (consultant) is recognized. If a consultant/facilitator is hired, a plan for supporting and managing the consultant is created.
  4. Clearly articulated Goals, for example:
    1. Increased parent confidence
    2. Improved management
    3. Clarity regarding roles and responsibilities
    4. Improved balance in work/life
  5. It is acknowledged that there is instability and some chaos inherent in transitions and there is a thorough assessment of the nature of the transition/change and the potential effect it may have on individuals, groups and processes. There are plans put in place to manage any processes/tasks that need immediate attention and there are plans to deal appropriately with guilt, resentment, or anxiety that may emerge in people as a result.
  6. It is recognized that with every transition, there is the need to review (identify and consider) assumptions, risks, dependencies, costs, and cultural issues. Transitions, once the basics are attended to, can be a good time to consider doing an audit of processes, systems, or governance.
  7. It is recognized that every transition affects people in different ways. For the staff, there is a conscious identification of the interim procedures and agreements regarding managing everyday processes and making decisions.
  8. It is recognized that transitions effect everyone in the organization and community (stakeholders) to some degree and that each group’s (and every individual’s) input, perspective and insights are valued and considered.
  9. It is recognized that clear and regular communication is essential to a successful transition including communication that informs various stakeholders of:
    1. the realities of the situation, details (why and what)
    2. goals, process and leadership for the transition
    3. benefits of successful implementation (what is in it for us, and you)
    4. timeline, costs and expected outcomes
    5. ways in which stakeholders will be involved, engaged
    6. avenues for listening to and responding to concerns and/or resistance
    7. modes of support being offered to alleviate any change-related fears
    8. ways in which the process will be monitored, reviewed, evaluated, and fine-tuned.
    9. the celebration and orientation to new people, structures, and agreements (roles, responsibilities and processes)
  1. A communication plan is put into place that addresses the above


  1. In personnel transitions, there is a plan to facilitate the best possible departure for the person(s) leaving, including appropriate rituals for the organization and community culture.
  2. A plan is in place for recognizing and celebrating what is new when the transition is over, including:
    1. What people have taken on
    2. What new practices and procedures have
      1. been developed
    3. What new agreements have been made
  3. A plan is created for ongoing review and evaluation moving into the future.
  4. Individuals are encouraged and supported to take care of the effects the transition has on their soul and time is allotted for talking through feelings connected to the transition.
  5. Successful transition/change is reviewed and celebrated.



Change and the Threefold Organization

School Transitions in light of the threefold aspect of the school


All transitions have effects in each of the three realms of the school (individual, social and organizational). Because each realm has a particular qualitative character and expresses different aspects of the school life and wholeness, it can be helpful to look at any transition from three vantage points

Cultural Realm (social realm)

The cultural realm is the realm of agreements, and is most connected to the understanding of each person as a equal part of the community who participates in the life of the school as an equal, committed to the mission, the goals, the values, the rules, the procedures and the policies – all the agreements that together express the culture and spirit of the school. In this area, people want to know that they are protected, valued and seen as part of the process and that negative effects of the change are being dealt with. Focus: Confidence

Acknowledge (and if appropriate, celebrate) the change

Be open and consistent with handling the change

Strive to rely on values and agreements that are in place and allow each situation to inform the growing evolving body of agreements.

Make every effort to keep everyone appropriately informed. As a community, everyone has the right ot know at an appropriate level.

Communicate timely, regularly, clearly, respectfully and appropriately to every group.

Assure people that leadership is aware of the transition, its effects and are addressing it in a timely and well thought out way (build confidence)

Personal and Inter-Personal realm (individual realm) The personal - interpersonal realm  is the realm of creativity, encouragement, recognition of individual gifts and contributions, and commitment to growing and developing through self development and through the shared development of relationships. In this area, people want to know that they are unique and individual, that they are allowed to learn and grow in their own particular way and that others are also committed to self development. Focus: Dealing with individual feelings and relationships 

Consider and recognize the effect the change might have on each person, and each group – it might be a personal relational change and it might be a change of process.

Allow individuals to help by sharing their experiences

Provide opportunities where people can be heard and conversed with

Attend to conflicts directly and in a timely way

Help by reminding people that they are valued, their experience and insight is valued.


Structural and Process realm (Earth/Organization realm)

The structural earlthy realm is the realm of structures and forms and resources where each person is seen as a part of a working whole and through the common good, indivudals are supported in their work and development. In this area, people want to know that there are structures and a kind of architecture that holds the organization in place at any given time – structures and forms that allow individuals and groups to relax knowing that the dynamics of everyday work are being help together by a conscious whole that is informed and formed out of the highest values and ideals of the organization.

Focus: Responsibility

Attention is given to the fact and details of the change and it is understood that the transition will require resources to manage.

The change is acknowledged by leadership at all levels of the school

Attention is given to any underlying factors influencing the change and an effort is made to assess how the change might lead to new possibilities in line with the school’s mission and values.

All the tasks related to the change are reviewed and plans are in place for taking care of the them in the interim.

Mentoring a New Teacher from Transitions Handbook, Teacher Education Network, AWSNA

Mentoring a New Teacher

Transitions Handbook, Teacher Education Network, AWSNA


The mentoring of a new teacher is essential in supporting a newly trained teacher in the process of moving from being a teacher education institute graduate to a successful and happy teacher. Every new teacher needs to receive strong and attentive mentoring. The following guidelines are designed to help each school shape its own individual mentoring program for new teachers.


Goals of Mentoring:

Mentoring is designed to help support the following:


  1. Deepen insights into Waldorf pedagogy, festivals, and grade level curriculum.
  2. Support the development of effective relationships with the children, including order and discipline.
  3. Create healthy social dynamics within the class.
  4. Apply age appropriate curriculum methods to support healthy child development.
  5. Foster collegial relationships.
  6. Facilitate better communication and partnering with parents.
  7. Promote personal well being and balance in relation to teaching.


Choosing a Mentor:

A mentor should have most or all of the following characteristics:


  1. Experienced, trained Waldorf Teacher, ideally having completed

an eight-year cycle, but at least well grounded in the year the new teacher will be teaching.

  1. Familiar with the school – able to convey all necessary information and

support in school wide areas such as expectations, policies and procedures.

  1. Available for meetings and consultations – open and generous with his

or her time and attention. Teachers who are already carrying large parts of school administration or in challenging years and situations themselves do not often make good mentors.

  1. Strong communicators with a history of good parent and colleague


  1. Confident about classroom practices and about giving advice and

guidance to the young teacher.

  1. Able to work well with the individual teacher being mentored – this is a

matter of temperament and approach and needs to be considered for each pairing.

  1. Knows how to ask questions and see that there are many approaches to

teaching, not just his or her own.




Sometimes it is impossible to find all these characteristics in one mentor and

in that situation some schools have two people working with one teacher – an outside person doing classroom observation visits and an in-house teacher doing weekly meetings with the new teacher. In this situation, it is still essential that both mentors make early and frequent visits to the classroom.


A Mentoring Schedule:


Mentoring should include classroom visits and observation and weekly meetings for planning, consulting and addressing issues.


Schedule for classroom visits and observation:


In the first year a new teacher should have at least a three-day classroom

visit and observation within the first two weeks of the school year, followed by a two-to-three day visit around the winter break (December through February) and a final two-day visit in the spring.   It is essential that each visit be longer than a single day since the teacher’s work with the rhythm of the days is a critical part of the observation. This is the time habits are built for better or worse.


In coming years a two-day visit, once or preferably twice, during the school year is usually sufficient as long as there are no significant concerns about the teacher’s classroom performance.


Scheduling these visits can be challenging. Some schools arrange it so

that on a particular day subject teachers teach the main lesson in the mentor’s class to allow the mentor to observe the new teacher’s main lesson. In other schools the main lesson and the first two subject lessons are exchanged in the day occasionally, so the children start with the subject lessons and the mentor teaches his or her main lesson later in the day, after observing the new teacher. Other schools, especially when the upper-grade teachers have heavy mentoring loads, set a permanent schedule for the upper grades which starts the day with subject lessons, one or more days a week, allowing the main lesson teacher to observe regularly in lower grade classrooms. Finally, some other schools have a ninth main lesson teacher or permanent substitute who regularly steps in to allow the mentor time to observe in the new teacher’s classroom or does much of the mentoring.


Schedule for mentoring meetings:


Each teacher should have a weekly mentoring meeting of at least one

subject class period in length. For new teachers, especially those with lower grades, it is often best to schedule this meeting for the end or after the school day, as they are with their classes for more subject periods than higher grade teachers.


In some situations some of these meetings can be held by telephone, but

ideally the meeting is direct and long enough for issues to surface. It is also important that the mentor ensure that the meeting is directed to mentoring and not to personal conversation, even when supportive.


Topics for Mentoring:


The following are suggestions for what mentoring conversations should include:


  1. Focus on a small number of central areas that the new teacher has identified as needing improvement and/or development.
  2. Overview of the year’s curriculum, including goal-setting as well as the why for each subject. Review available resource materials. Discuss general organization of the year.
  3. Review block schedule for the year.
  4. Review the block plan a good two weeks before each block begins, including resources for songs, flute or recorder pieces, poems and verses, and movement.
  5. Regularly review circle or opening exercises, rhythm of the main lesson, transitions, and discipline.
  6. Advise on report writing; share copies of other reports for that grade in our school; preview and review reports.
  7. Discuss and advise on particular children. This would include observing that child during recess, etc. Review assessments, past reports, etc.
  8. Preview parent/teacher conferences, format, children with difficulties, etc. Review after conferences.
  9. Review content of parent evenings. Plan to visit a parent evening in the fall and follow up in the spring if necessary.
  10. Be available to review correspondence that goes out to parents.
  11. Review the yearly festivals and events; help to gather resources. Inform the teacher of how things have been done at this school. Discuss any changes before they are implemented.


Resolving Problems with Mentoring:


Each school needs to have a policy and procedure for resolving concerns and

problems with mentoring, making clear who is responsible for overseeing

mentoring throughout the school, and ensuring it is happening regularly.


Supporting a New Teacher with His or Her Class Parents


The very nature of a teacher education institution means that the area that it is hardest to prepare teacher education students for, besides classroom discipline, is his or her work with class parents. At the institutions there are no parents to practice with, and as each class has its own nature and personality, it is hard to provide anything beyond guidelines for parent work. This having been said, much is accomplished in the programs in cultivating right listening and right speech practice, consensus decision-making, and appreciating multiple points of view. Participants are also given an understanding of the parent perspective and point-of-view.


However, the teacher’s relationship with the class parents is a central part of their success or failure as a class teacher. Therefore, it is essential that each new class teacher be consciously mentored and supported in this particular area of responsibility. The following are some suggestions to help with this support:


  1. Support with introductions and first meetings. The more formed and warm the first meeting is the more the relationship can get off to a good start. Schools should arrange for class picnics, teas or other gatherings to introduce the new teacher and allow parents to begin to work together.


  1. Support with home visits if expected. Summer or fall home visits are the standard practice in some schools and not part of the expectations in others. New teachers should be mentored and supported through the home visiting process with an opportunity to discuss appropriate topics and behavior with an experienced school teacher.


  1. Class meetings. New teachers should not be left to plan and carry out their first few class meetings alone. Mentors should provide a good sense of how often meetings are expected, and the general structure and format they should follow. Mentors or college members should also be at the first few meetings to help provide guidance, feedback to the new teacher after the meeting, and support in the meeting. All class meetings in the first year should have an agenda and a planned series of events, which avoids meetings taking turns that the teacher had not anticipated. The mentor should work to ensure that parents with particular concerns and questions that are not related to the class as a whole do not use full parent meeting time to pursue their personal needs, but instead schedule appropriate individual meeting.


  1. Class communication. Letters to parents updating them on classroom events are essential to building strong trust and confidence in parents about the classroom and the teacher. Although many new teachers find writing parent letters to be an additional burden, the lack of communication can lead to parents feeling that they don’t know what is happening in the classroom. Mentors should work with all new teachers to ensure that a letter with regular classroom updates and news is being sent home and that all class parents are kept fully informed about upcoming events and responsibilities.


  1. Conversation with, or questions from, parents. The new teacher should clearly communicate when she can be reached. The mentor should help the new teacher establish healthy boundaries.


  1. Parent/teacher conferences. All new teachers need support around the planning and carrying out of their fall and/or spring parent/teacher conferences. This is especially important around the conferences for students who have specific challenges or classroom issues. Mentors should help new teachers think through and practice their approaches to parents on particularly sensitive issues, such as learning problems and behavioral concerns. There may be cases where the mentor or another colleague should be present at the conference.


  1. Parent complaints and concerns. It is normal and to be expected that during each school year parents will raise concerns, and new teachers need to be prepared for it, ready to respond calmly and productively. A conversation about the inevitable and often healthy process of resolving concerns and issues with parents needs to be part of the ongoing mentoring and support. New teachers should also be fully aware of all school policies and practices for complaint and dispute resolution and mediation.


Collegial Expectations of a New Teacher


It is important that newly hired teachers have a clear sense of the expectations upon them in the following areas:


  1. Work on committees and work groups within the faculty. Number of committees they should be part of and involvement in curriculum groups or planning groups.
  2. Work on community wide committees and work groups. Whether they are expected to take on a community role, beyond their own classrooms, in their first years.
  3. Practices for interaction and cooperation with subject teachers. Curriculum groups or other meetings that take place regularly between teachers.
  4. Faculty meeting expectations. Attendance and participation guidelines, methods of working and decision making (voting, consensus, etc)
  5. Other faculty commitments. Festivals, plays, singing etc.