A strong holding cultural tradition is establishing personal goals for ourselves in coordination with the calendar. The Roman God Janus, January’s namesake, is a two-faced god with faces looking toward the past and toward the future respectively. Janus has the unique ability to look forward and backward simultaneously, representing both beginnings and endings. The Roman calendar was reformed from a 10 month (304 day) format to the presently used Gregorian calendar under emperor Julius Caesar. The new year had traditionally started with the vernal equinox, but would now start on January 1. Roman worshippers continued an earlier Babylonian practice of offering resolutions of good conduct to Janus. This was adapted over time in Christianity to become a tradition of self-reflection and self-improvement.
It is estimated that 41% of individuals in the United States make resolutions each year (and 42% absolutely never make them). If you did, I’m willing to bet you stuck to the big categories that many other Americans did – weight loss, health, finances or general self-improvement.
Did you consider making a resolution for your organization, business or community? Here are three organizational resolutions that can be tailored to any entity:
1. Think beyond tomorrow
New Year’s Resolutions are meaningful because they engage the resolute in an immediate behavior shift. The long range goal may take six months, a year or longer to achieve, but the actions to achieve that goal begin immediately. Futurists are social scientists that develop responsive strategies based on assumptions/trends of what the future will hold. I attended a Local Government Institute of Wisconsin learning laboratory in 2015, facilitated by Wisconsin-based author and futurist Rebecca Ryan. Our focus was on how the needs and responses of local government will shift for future generations. We were discussing challenges and solutions that would impact our children, not ourselves. It made me realize that in terms of the public good, we can’t think in terms of the immediate – we need to think of those who come after us. While large companies like Google, Hershey, Procter & Gamble and General Motors, to name a few, can afford to hire full-time wonks to advise policy and decision making in the now, it is out of question for many small businesses and organizations.
Organizations of a smaller size can still be forward thinking by looking at the big picture. Does an imminent technology shift upend the way you do your job? Does a demographic shift change your impact and audience? Maybe looking forward is establishing a one paragraph vision for where you see your business, organization or community in a decade. By looking 10+ years into the future, it can drastically shape how we make decisions in the present.
2. Accept criticism – and act on it
It is never easy to accept criticism, but it is healthy to learn to do so. Criticism, albeit unpopular, is a form of communication. Can your business and your customer, or your organization and stakeholder achieve a new outcome by talking through a problem? Will stakeholder feedback influence your processes to ensure that you are being as responsive as possible? Taking a deep breath and engaging positively is key. In an ever technology-centered world, we can respond to criticism in more anonymous venues (email, social media) rapidly and perhaps, more boldly, than we might have several decades earlier.
I read an anecdote about Abraham Lincoln last year about the art of angry letter writing. He had advised cabinet member Edwin Stanton to draft a fiery return to an angry letter that had been received. Upon finishing the letter, the president told him to burn the finished letter rather than to send it. “It is a good letter, and you have had a good time writing it, and you feel better, don’t you? It has done you good and answered its purpose. Now burn it!”
In modern context, the point of the exercise was to come to terms with personal feelings outside the realm of the correspondence. Once we are at peace with our emotions, then we respond. Rather than quickly firing back a response, we would all be better served to be thoughtful in how we respond to criticism or negative feedback. Sometimes a walk around the block has the same therapeutic benefits of an unsent letter.
The important truth to remember here is the importance of acting on negative feedback. Dedicate time each month, or more frequently as needed, to review notable feedback and discuss how to resolve the issue moving forward.
3. Be your own best advocate
I attended a workshop in 2015 on fundraising for non-profit organizations featuring guest speaker Chuck Loring. One exercise we completed stuck with me in particular. On a sheet of paper we had three vertical columns. In the first column, we listed (in no particular order) people in our network. Someone that you see at least four times a year and would not feel uncomfortable contacting. In the second column we were to draw names from the first, but we could only carry over names from the first column of people who knew our affiliation with the non-profit we were representing that day. The list shortened significantly. In the third column, we again borrowed from the second, but this time we could only carry over names of individuals who knew that we were involved in this particular organization AND had some semblance of what that organization’s purpose or actions are. The final list was a fraction of the whole.
Many are wary of being too salesy about their work in their personal life and about their personal interests in their work life. Perhaps we are underselling ourselves and our organizations. I realized quickly through this list-making exercise that I am not the strongest advocate for an organization which I am entrusted with strengthening. Being your own best advocate means ensuring that people know your personal involvement with an organization and educating others on what that organizations does. How can I be better at this? In thinking about it, I realized the many, simple ways I could improve in this area:
- I can inviting my friends to an event on Facebook
- I can share our newsletter with them
- I can share the award that we received last year
- I can talk about the grant project we are working on
- I can tell them about our membership opportunities
- I can invite them to our annual dinner
- I can include a link to the organization’s website in my email signature
Not a one of these simple ways, I think, makes me seem conceited or self-interested. All joking aside, the email signature on my personal email one got a lot of positive attention! Under my contact information, I simply wrote “Here are some organizations I’m involved in locally – I’d love to tell you more about them”. Each organization was listed on a separate line with a link to their website.
Consider coming up with a two sentence elevator pitch of something worth sharing about your organization. Readily on hand, this might be the snippet you share at a networking event, social gathering or in the breakroom. You never know if someone in your audience may take interest. The possibilities are endless and as unique as your organization.
Keeping your resolutions by being accountable
Research suggests that less than 10% of Americans would rate themselves as successful in achieving their New Year’s resolutions. One commonly listed hack in successfully achieving resolutions of any sort is maintaining accountability. Make these organizational resolutions a part of your staff or board meetings. Give staff and board members a chance to share their successes, their setbacks, and their unique approaches on these topics. If you’re all in it together, you’re more likely to grow as a group and to reach your mutual best interest.