Change Management For Translators And Interpreters


How many changes have you experienced so far this year? Probably more than you think, from simple software upgrades to working with new clients to moving to another country. What about the changes you didn’t make? The ones you avoided and the ones you wanted to make, but didn’t?

Whether or not we welcome it, change can have a noticeable impact on our lives and on our productivity. It usually requires a period of adaptation. According to American author, speaker and consultant William Bridges, change and transition are two different things. When it comes to implementing change successfully, transition management is key. This post is based on his work*.

Change versus Transition

Change is an event that is external to us. It might be the birth of a child, the loss of a job, the end of a project or the beginning of a new partnership. It can also happen very quickly. Transition is the internal psychological process through which we come to terms with and adapt to the change. This process takes time and, according to Bridges, happens in three distinct phases: an ending, a neutral zone and a new beginning. Without a successful transition from the old way of things to the new, the change won’t happen successfully. It’s also interesting to note that, although transition often results from change, it can also begin before the change actually happens.

“It’s not the change that people resist, it’s the transition.” William Bridges


Managing Endings

Phase One of Bridges’ transition process is called the “Ending”: something must end before something else can begin. Whether the change is positive or negative, we lose something and it’s important to acknowledge that loss, whether it’s real or perceived, permanent or temporary, tangible or intangible. We need to let go of what is over (work habits, locations, relationships…) before we can begin to move on. Identifying what will stay the same also helps.

What have you stopped doing this year? Who have you stopped doing business with? What tools are you no longer using?

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is
a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another.” Anatole France


Going Through The Neutral Zone

Phase Two of the transition process is called the “Neutral Zone”. Between the Ending and the New Beginning, there’s a gap, an in-between time during which the old way of doing things no longer exists and the new way isn’t established yet. In the Neutral Zone, we’re no longer who we used to be, but we haven’t integrated our new identity yet. This time of confusion can be unsettling, and those who do well are generally the ones who :

  • find things to do that help them feel more in CONTROL of their situation;
  • UNDERSTAND the transition process, as well as the reasons for the change;
  • have good SUPPORT systems (friends, family, colleagues, coach, etc.);
  • have a clear sense of PURPOSE to keep them going and help them decide which direction to take.

The Neutral Zone is also a time of creativity, a time when anything can happen as we try new things. The confusion that can make us so anxious also means that our old ways of thinking won’t get in the way of our creativity. This clean slate can give us a chance to see things with new eyes and start writing a new chapter for our lives or careers. It’s the perfect time for us to improvise, try out new ideas and realise our full potential.

What are you hoping to gain from the change? What can you put in place to ease your transition? What has the change allowed you to do that you never thought of before?

“I have a great belief in the fact that whenever there is chaos, it creates wonderful thinking.
I consider chaos a gift.” Septima Poinsette Clark


Embracing The New Beginning

Phase Three of the transition process is the “New Beginning”. It’s a time when we grow familiar with our new reality (new processes, new client, new location…) and integrate our new identity (new role, new habits, new attitude…). When the transition process is successful, it leads to growth and personal/professional development, despite the discomfort and the difficulties encountered in phases One and Two. We learn that we can do things differently, and discover that some aspects of our personalities/habits we thought essential really weren’t. In other words, our views of ourselves and how the world operates develop. We’re renewed.

What new skills have you acquired? What new connections have you made? What role(s) are you now playing?

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Seneca


How Coaching Can Help

In times of change, coaching can help us by:

– acknowledging our losses, e.g. identity, familiar ways of being, connections, etc.;
– identifying what will stay, e.g. effective strategies, skills, resources, connections, etc.;
– identifying ways in which we can mark and celebrate our transition towards our new life;
– giving us full control over the topics we want to discuss and the actions we’re going to take;
– enabling us to break down our goals into series of bite-size steps that are easier to manage;
– allowing us to use our coach as a sounding board to gain clarity and boost our creativity;
– giving us an opportunity to explore our values, understand what’s important to us and develop a sense of direction and purpose.

What changes are you expecting in the next 6 months? What changes are you planning to make? What will be the result of these changes?

If you’d like to change something in your personal or professional life, or if you have a goal you’d like to achieve, this FREE 30-minute coaching session (mp3 recording) will help you break things down and create an action plan for the next couple of weeks. You can use it as often as you wish.


* Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, William Bridges.
   Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, William Bridges.


You may also like:

The Translator’s Business Priorities Wheel

The Translator’s Stretch Zone

Five Common (And Surmountable) Barriers To A Fulfilling Career In Translation

The Translator’s Guide To Finding And Targeting A Niche Market

Time Management For Translators – Time Log Exercise


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Photo by Timon Studler

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