This time of year I wish I had the mythical gifts attributed to Janus, the ancient Roman god of beginnings and transitions. Janus knew the past – not so hard – but he also is said to have known what was to come – tricky indeed. He is depicted with two faces, one looking back and one looking forward.
Even while lost in envy of this pagan god Janus and his double vision, I’m bombarded with Facebook posts shouting, “Get yourself out of the past and the future; for goodness sake get oriented to the NOW. Be present in the present! It is all we have!”
Adding to the confusion is my belief that leaders have a responsibility to preserve the past of the organization, the stories that reveal how the company grew and how it goes about its business. Veterans and newbies learn much about the corporate culture from hearing these stories, even if the tales change a bit with each telling. And what about the responsibility of leaders to do their utmost to have a sense of what is ahead? A dual responsibility is implied here, first to have a clear vision of “the future we want” and at the same time gathering all the available information about trends that will likely have an impact on that future. So, called upon to be archivist and seer, we still have to deal with admonitions to live life in the moment, that precious present where it is all really happening.
For many organizations, all this magic happens in January. The leaders must continue steering the company through day-to-day business, extinguish the inevitable fires and guide everyone through the crafting of a plan for the next 12 months. I think they still call it strategic planning.
Guess you could just sign up for a month-long cruise in the Caribbean. Nah. That wouldn’t be very enjoyable with all this left behind and unfinished, maybe not even started. So what can you do?
It is all about time – past, present and future time. You only have so much and it is imperative to spend some of your time sleeping, not to mention some with family and friends. Some of your time is best spent alone, if even to remember that you are a talented human being who can figure out the hard stuff. Then remember that cool as you are, you are not obligated to do all of this magic by yourself.
Ah, the good old double blessing of delegation. You keep your sanity and others get an opportunity to grow and learn.
For instance, I bet you have an historian on board. That associate may be a story-teller as well. If not, you can split these jobs and locate that person who really knows how to tell a story, who knows how to draw in her audience and loves doing it. Those two will keep the past alive. Then, the crystal ball business. Again, look around you for those geeky types (lovable as they are) who would be eager to Google identifying trends and interior and exterior forces in the environment that will affect the future of your organization.
Many coaches feel the vision must come from the person at the top. I recognize that the leader of the organization will have a strong voice in depicting the vision – and I think all the people on the leadership team can be involved. This doesn’t have to be crafted in words at the outset. I’ve had team members build all kinds of images representing their visions for the organization. Some have done this with Legos, with clay, with markers – the material is immaterial. It is fun to do it this way, and often the results are surprising.
All of this will lead to clarity about where to extend energy and other resources for the next year. You want to end up with agreement on who will do what and when they will do it. It can all be put into words in whatever way is appropriate for the needs of your organization.
So a salute to Janus. Enjoy the process. Take a warm weather break in February. n
Jo Gorissen is a certified transition coach and a former Milwaukee resident. She can be reached at