It isn’t just for interviewing.
I just taught a one day Clean Language Interviewing intensive at the HPRCT (Human Performance, Root Cause, and Trending) conference in San Antonio, Texas on the 22nd of June. In this training we talk about a frame James Lawley and I call the “Janus Position”.
Janus is an ancient Roman god with multiple faces. He represents transition, doorways, duality, the beginning and the end.
The Janus position is one of multiple perspectives, including that of the interviewer. Imagine your face in the middle of this image.
Interviewer + Purpose + Interviewee = Janus position
I+P+I creates the Janus position for the interviewer
When interviewing, one is often responsible for multiple desired outcomes:
- Conducting a comprehensive interview
- Meeting the legal, ethical, and outcome requirements of their position
- Meeting outcomes desired or made explicit by management or leadership
- Gaining rapport and willing participation from the interviewee
Within this there is a prioritization of outcomes depending on the context and conditions of the interview.
Not all interviews are created equal. The question any interviewer must have is:
- What is the primary purpose of this interview? Who/what is this for?
An example of this might be a qualitative interview in which the interviewer wants to know an interviewee’s experience on a roller coaster. In this interview the rapport and comfort of the interviewee becomes a primary outcome, as well as their connection to their internal state.
In a quantitative interview (for cause evaluation) the priority might be the interviewee’s working memory and the interviewer’s obligation to the cause analysis and corrective actions that are to come partly from their interview information.
A reporter’s purpose might be personal gain through story writing regardless of the outcome to the interviewee (think Paparazzi) or seeking objective facts with the purpose of informing the public of data they do not currently have access to.
The Janus position requires keeping multiple purposes in mind all at the same time. This can be complex and require an occasional review of action to purpose. It is easier to get off task than you might imagine; a juicy bit of information that catches the interviewer’s imagination and curiosity, a secondary condition that arises in an interview that needs attention, a conflict of personality or temperament that creates undue tension in the interview room, a frightened or worried interviewee. These are some of the types of interference that can arise.
Questions an interviewer might ask themselves prior to starting an interview are:
- What is my purpose?
- Who or what is this interview for?
- What is the primary kind of information I am seeking?
- How will I work with information of other types that come up in the context of this interview?
- What is the time line for this interview?
- Do I have the opportunity to revisit the interviewee or is this the only opportunity I have to ask questions?
- Is there a pick-list I am required to use and where might be the best time to place these questions in the interview?
- Who else might need a copy of the information elicited in this interview and what form are they expecting it in?
I am writing this article because recently I had need of the Janus position thinking in a personal aspect of my life. It was not an interview and did require a clear idea of purpose to make the best of a difficult situation.
My parents, now 95 and 86, were moving from a 3000 sq ft home to a 1000 sq ft apartment in an independent living complex. A very good move and excellent timing. This meant that my sister and I needed to be in Texas to help them. It meant looking at their treasures, helping them sort and choose what meant the most to them and what they would keep, items that meant a lot to them and they could not keep, and generally doing whatever was needed to make their transition easier.
Independent of that, it also meant my sister and I managing ourselves to keep our relationship in the forefront and the ‘cool stuff’ we wanted secondary.
Hmmm, you are beginning to see my purpose as I write.
- My parents comfort and ease of transition
- My parents feeling happy that their treasures were not going to end up in an estate sale
- Keeping my relationship with my sister intact as we sorted through and divided anything of value that was left from the move
Emotions were high, we were all quite fatigued from long days, and tolerance began to wane.
I asked myself these questions:
- What is my purpose?
- Who is this for?
- When that is the purpose, how do I need to be (behavior and attitude) to meet this purpose?
- How will I work with less than desirable behavior that might come up? (in both myself and others)
- How do I need to be to come out of this feeling good about myself (meeting my need for congruence and primary values)?
- Is there a pick-list? ie: what is on my list as a daughter that needs to be met within everything else that must be done and where do we place those actions/questions?
- Who else is involved that needs to be kept in the loop?
- What would I like to have happen? Yup, I did include my lil ol’ self as part of the larger outcome.
Each day I reminded myself who this was for: my parents. What my purpose was: to make their transition as stress-free as possible. This meant consciously determining my attitude and behavior prior to arriving at the house and during interactions with my sister and mother.
What I came to:
- memories do not live in things
- people over stuff
- relationships over acquisition
It is not necessary for you to come to determinations as I have above, and you will find that keeping the thinking of a Janus position will be helpful in both your interview practices and personal/work interactions.