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Impact Stories | Mike Gilger

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MIKE GILGER Product Designer at Google

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“Change is easy. Transition is hard.” 

We often quote this line from Patrick Lencioni in our team workshops and our leadership learning sessions. Change can be analyzed from a logical standpoint, whereas transition is an emotional process. Often, we don’t take the time to recognize that when we’re moving into something new, something else is ending for us. We may be grieving, or our team could be grieving, and not even realize it.

In the Table Group podcast on transitions, Patrick outlines seven losses of transitions: turf, attachments, structure, future, meaning/purpose, control, and identity. It’s important to acknowledge what’s lost, so that we can move through it to get to our new beginning.

One of our clients, Mike Gilger, recently transitioned from an entrepreneur to a role at Google. Here’s his story of what he experiences through the transition, and how he navigated it.

What was your challenge with the transition?

Identity change. Shifting from Entrepreneur to Google Product Designer. I started working with Scott at the beginning of the pandemic when my design studio saw such rapid changes in the market, and then my wife and I had our two kids at home learning. It was a moment where my identity as a business owner was challenged, and it led to the challenging exploration of if that identity was still serving me and bringing me wellness. Scott helped me identify what I truly loved about my work and what I needed to leave behind. With his coaching, I was able to mourn the identity of the entrepreneur and see that I am more than just that identity. I could free myself of the anxiety I had connected to my work and that identity. It also helped that a new career path was becoming visible as recruiters for large companies offered remote roles. But it was only through my sessions with Scott that I could have seen this transition as growth in my identity and not a failure as a business owner.

How did Scott’s coaching help with the transition?

Early in my journey, Scott helped me identify my anxious connection to work and how much fear was driving my decision process. I would be on a walk with my kids and enjoying nature and the moment, then I would get a text from a client, and my heart would race, and I felt this anxious need to respond right away or else (fear spiral) I would lose the client, I would lose respect, I would lose my savings, etc… Just being able to identify this behavior and acknowledge its presence in my work has helped me gain awareness and see that behavior as fear and that I have the power to change it if I am aware of it. There are also the countless habits and rhythms Scott has helped me create to find true wellness in my work and habits. I still have an anxious connection to work, but I am now making new patterned behaviors. Knowing I have this anxious connection to check my work emails and messages when I am off hours, I am starting my new role at Google with a separate work phone and work laptop so I can add a physical layer of separation between work and personal.

What have you learned in the process of reaching this milestone?

1. Work doesn’t have to be pain and stress; it can be fun and enjoyable.
It’s a feeling and statement I only understand in retrospect and is probably surprising for most people to hear. I mean I design beautify experiences with creative people, but I had never seen my work this way. I was conditioned to understand work as sweat, toil, and pain. It comes from a nature and nurture place, but I had accepted that’s how work was supposed to feel. Throughout Scott’s sessions he was able to gracefully challenge that perception and help me start to change that perspective and make a change if I chose too. That was powerful just knowing I had a choice and I had agency in my perception of work.

2. The second and scarier lesson, lead with vulnerability.
Throughout the entire interview process I constantly wanted to perform and be what I “thought” these companies wanted me to be. Instead, with Scott’s encouragement I went through every interview as honestly and vulnerable as possible. I was blown away by the outcome. After 6 weeks of interviews, I received offer from both Google and Meta for senior design roles. The feedback from both teams was that I stood out not only in my work, but in my presence of mind and awareness of self. Which lol would never have come through if I was trying to act like what I thought someone at these companies would have been like. I was able to say in interviews, “I don’t know” and feel confident. I was able to admit areas of weakness and ask questions about areas of my growth that I had uncovered in my sessions with Scott.


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