Sunday, March 01, 2009

Focus for March: Winds of Change

Here in the U.S., as we wait hopefully for spring, many folks (like me!) are waiting for the first crocus or daffodil to pop its head through the snow. Just now as I write this, a male and female cardinal are right outside my window--the brilliant red is such a welcome change from the brownish-gray of the winter landscape. C'mon, spring! :)

March in Indiana is known as a month when anything can happen, and often does. The phrase "in like a lion and out like a lamb" is sometimes true and sometimes not. There are years when March starts like a lamb, rages like a lion mid-month, and thunders like Thor at the end! One thing is always certain about March, though--the winds will come. Dramatic, pushy, persistent, relentless winds turn trees into instruments and make our hats fly off our heads. Anything left untethered outside may end up down the street--or in the next county.

I was thinking this morning about the ways in which working in communications is a lot like being able to read the wind, know what to tether, and know what to let go. Sometimes "going with the flow" is the best approach, depending on the communication challenge you're facing. Sometimes tethering to a principle, a belief, a product, or a choice is the better option. Here are some communications principles in tune with the changing seasons that occur to me. Perhaps there's a helpful thought here for you as well:

  • Know the wind is coming. Whether it comes at a certain time of year or not, the wind will come. For some businesses and organizations, communications challenges are cyclical--perhaps you struggle around the financial aid deadline, during your membership drive, or at the end (or beginning) of your fiscal year. Whether there's a pattern to your challenges or not, you will be challenged at some point, and your message will need to respond to the challenge in some way that flows naturally and logically from the heart of what you do. That's not a bad thing--in fact, it enables us to continue to fine-tune, test, and clarify our messaging. Is there a specific time of year or a specific area of your business that regularly presents communications challenges for your organization?

  • Recognize that the wind brings change. Part of the pattern of growth is a period of disequillibrium before equillibrium. Look around at the world as it begins to blossom. The new daffodil has to disturb the soil before it can find its way out into the sun. The wind pushes the dead leaves away--once and for all!--so that new growth can begin. How is the wind you're experiencing in your business pushing out the old to make way for the new?

  • Know where your anchor is. One of the challenges the heady March wind presents is that if we're not paying attention, some gusts can knock us right off our feet! The pushing and whipping of the wind may send us running for cover; we can forget where we were going; we may skip doing things we had planned to do just so we can get out of the wind. In this way, meeting challenges and change in our businesses and organizations can send us running for cover, trying to protect ourselves, looking for ways to play it safe and get away from the discomfort the change brings. The answer to this March wind challenge is to know what to cling to. If you've got an anchor, you're paying attention, and you know clearly what's solid and enduring and true about your service, program, product, or value, you will have sustained what's most important about what you offer the world, clarified and released the things that no longer work, and set the stage for beautiful new growth to happen in your business and your life.

That's great work, all from simply being in tune with what's going on in nature around you right now. Happy March, everyone!