Question: It seems that we have discussed transitioning from my father to my brother and me for years. Finally, my dad has set a transition date. But now what? How do we prepare for his departure after so many years? — F.S. from Manchester

First of all, congratulations to you and your brother. Secondly, congratulations to your dad—setting an actual exit date is critical for any successful transition.

About the author: Susan Lesser is co-founder of nPlusOne, an operational management company that focuses on recruitment, training, and consulting.
Susan Lesser is co-founder of nPlusOne, an operational management company that focuses on recruitment, training, and consulting.

To your question, I urge you to start by viewing change from an inner level in order to plan for this new reality and successfully maneuver within it. You have discussed this transition for years; spend some time preparing yourself for the change before launching into the particulars of what needs to happen.

Change is difficult because most of us have a need for control and consistency. And change throws us out of control. However, since we know that change is inevitable, now what?

Three Initial Steps to Successfully Prepare for Change

1. Acceptance. Accept the fact that we cannot control everything. Imagining what we could do if we had total control serves no purpose. In fact, the incongruence between our imagination and reality often results only in negative feelings, which range from frustration to hopelessness.

Focusing on controlling our reaction to a changing situation is only a slightly better option when we realize that stifling our reaction only suppresses the feeling, not resolves it.

The only healthy course of attack is to genuinely accept our inability to control everything. Translation: this transition will likely not happen in accordance with whatever you and your brother plan. And understanding that brings us to the second step.

2. Anticipate Possible Outcomes. The most frequent point of failure people have is facing an outcome to change that was never considered.

Strive to anticipate the future. Get a head start on coping with change by identifying all of the possible outcomes or directions that the changing situation might take. Which is the best outcome? Which is the worst?

Also consider those outcomes that exist along the continuum between best and worst.

3. Anticipated Outcomes + Plan of Attack. Once you have identified possible outcomes, determine your joint responses to each situation. Be ready for anything.

Equate each anticipated scenario with a plan of attack. What will our response be if X occurs? What will we do if Y occurs? What about Z? The more open-minded and honest you and your brother can be, the the more variations you can anticipate.

Here’s the Key Point

Our ability to cope with change increases as we minimize the opportunities for a surprise.

We feel a sense of control when our expectations match reality. Therefore, when we anticipate more outcomes and are able to set more corresponding plans of attack, we feel more in control more.

Conversely, when reality does not match anticipated outcomes, we lose our sense of control.

We cannot control change. We can control our ability to cope with change. The steps are simple if we remember: the only good surprise is a birthday party.