Red. Yellow. Orange. Green. Brown. … The turning of leaves in the fall is a turning point in the year. It marks the beginning of cooler weather and shorter hours of daylight. It’s a time when we store up produce for the winter after the last harvest of summer and get out our winter clothes – gloves, boots and scarves. It’s a time for carving pumpkins, making soup, and watching football. For many, watching the leaves slowly turn color and drop to the ground is like an alarm going off.
The alarm marks the change in seasons. The alarm goes off each year about the same time. Seasons come and seasons go. Another year in the books. The alarm goes off and lets us know the season is about to change. Summer to fall. Fall to winter. Winter to spring. Spring to summer. Summer to Fall. And on it goes.
You have a favorite season don’t you? Everyone I know has a favorite. Yes, some of you will try to “game” the question. You’ll say something like, “I like all the seasons.” Or “I like fall because of the cool weather and leaves. But I like spring because of the flowers and budding trees. I like summer because …” But if forced, you can make a choice. You have a favorite season, don’t you?
As I was raking up leaves last weekend and looking at the leaves already on the ground and those still on the trees, I started thinking about the seasonal change. I started thinking about the events that had transpired in my life since the previous fall—Personal, professional, and spiritual changes in my life in the last year.
I started thinking about how we deal with and prepare for change in our personal and professional lives. We know change is coming. For example, every year, organizations go through a budgeting process that is tied to their fiscal calendar. You know it’s coming. Are you prepared? You participate in an annual performance review process. You know it’s coming. Are you prepared? You know the expense reports are due by the end of the fiscal year. You know it’s coming. Are you prepared? You have a strategic planning process that is completed just prior to the annual budgeting process. You know it’s coming. Are you prepared?
In your personal life, you are about to graduate from college. You know it’s coming. Are you prepared? You’re about to graduate and enter the workforce. You know it’s coming. Are you prepared? You’re about to get married. You know it’s coming. Are you prepared? You have major expenses such as cars, housing, and kids. You know it’s coming. Are you prepared? You’re nearing retirement age. You know it’s coming. Are you prepared?
For each of us, there are unexpected surprises and events we have to deal with for which we weren’t prepared. We can’t (and don’t) have a contingency for every possible scenario. Sometimes, despite our best planning, we are surprised and left, temporarily, without a plan. We enter crisis mode and develop a plan quickly. What I’m talking about in today’s article is not about dealing with the unexpected or deploying a crisis management plant that you’ve developed to deal with unpredictable emergency situations. What I’m talking about is knowing that seasons come and being prepared. It’s about having vision and awareness to see the seasonal change coming and to recognize its arrival. It’s about developing a plan before the season arrives. It’s about learning from previous seasons and incorporating those learnings into your next seasonal plan.
Seasonal changes should not catch you by surprise. If you get stuck in a mid-October snow without a jacket, shame on you. You knew it was fall, right? If you aren’t prepared with your budget number when the first draft is due, shame on you. You have a copy of the fiscal planning calendar, right? If your retirement plan is to win the lottery and you’re surprised you don’t have enough money to retire, shame on you. You had 30 years to invest in your 401k or IRA, right?
Don’t let the seasons sneak up on you. There are major changes (sometimes points of inflection) in our personal and professional lives. In our personal lives they are marked by a combination of age and life events (graduation, marriage, kids, retirement, etc.). In our professional lives they are most often marked by annual calendars (Finance, Human Resources, Strategic Planning, etc.).
Hopefully you will have an opportunity to enjoy the seasonal change and see some amazing fall colors. Hopefully you have time to enjoy a Pumpkin Spice Latte or carve a pumpkin or rake leaves and jump in them with your kids. Hopefully you were not surprised by the change in seasons. Hopefully you are prepared at work for the 4th quarter and all that brings, especially if your fiscal year is aligned to the calendar year.
Be prepared for seasonal changes in your life, personally and professionally. Yes, be flexible, agile and adaptable when dealing with the unforeseen changes in your life, but don’t overlook the need for seasonal planning. You know the seasonal changes are coming. You can see them coming. Be ready.
What season are you in? Personally? Professionally? What steps have you taken to prepare for the seasons in your personal and organizational life?
Dr. Robert Gerwig is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.
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