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Will the enterprise market spend significant IT budget on Windows Vista in 2007?



Want to Win? Forget YOU Exist.
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The filters of self-concept are the building blocks of rigid execution patterns. They make you see a teapot every time even if you’re staring at an espresso machine.

We have nothing to fear but fear itself!
Unconscious patterns are not visible until we start a ‘vigilant awareness’ regime of our personal perceptions and situational judgments. With each decision made we need to zoom out one more level, beyond the details and environmental factors and ask, ‘What filters are at work here?’ The more we observe our decisions from a third person perspective, the more obvious our self-concept becomes.

So, how to recognize a filter then, what exactly are we looking for? It has been my experience that those of us working via static patterns instead of unbiased creativity (in reality this is a scale of degrees of both, not an ‘either or’ scenario) tend to have an increased level of anxiety, a subtle form of fear. It manifests in multiple ways, from not being able to sleep over hitting quarterly targets to being on edge about releasing an employee. Why is this? If I am having a good day and am tuned-in to my “gut”, I find the stress level over both small and large decisions diminishes significantly. I am not worried about the outcome as there is a different quality of knowing it is the most appropriate action. On the flip side, if I am having a day of second-guessing and over analyzing, the anxiety level is much greater and I become susceptible to going with a comfortable pattern. What ensues is a lack of confidence in the decision as it didn’t come from intuition followed by clear analysis. Instead, a mode that worked in the past became the default, and it may or may not be appropriate depending on the details of the new circumstance. Numerous executives that I have spoken with over the years have experienced this, a huge drop in decision confidence if the matter feels over-thought.

Besides being an unconscious reflex, relying on old patterns of success (and failure!), is easy to fall into because going with our intuition seems TOO easy by comparison. The CEO of a young software company related an incident to me about terminating a key sales person, the employee in question was a political monster, playing fellow colleagues off one another for personal gain, spreading vicious rumors, covertly undermining management’s vision…the whole nine yards. The CEOs gut said “Can him!” so he weighed the risks and then…nothing. Another six months of stress passed before he finally did the deed. Why? In hindsight he said it was simple, second-guessing his intuition. Instead of realizing that the short-term loss of customers would be easy to bear in comparison to the blows he was taking daily to the cultural foundations of his company, he kept seeing reasons to delay. “This one deal is about to close, he is friends with so-and-so on the board, he will go to a competitor with our accounts, he will smarten up given a bit more time” and so on. Instead of using his anxiety as a sign that he wasn’t on the optimal path, this CEO vetoed his intuition and got stuck on the “no-decision” merry-go-round.

The key then is to watch for stress and get to the root of it. If left to linger our view will remain clouded.

When you point a finger three point back at you
Many of the people I have discussed these ideas with tend to understand right away, except, instead of dissecting their own patterns, they go right to work on judging those of everyone around them! I have been a victim of this myself. Ego is fairly easy to observe in other people, it is also a more comfortable exercise. Unfortunately there is a catch, we can’t be truly aware of the patterns of others and help them overcome their glass ceilings if we aren’t acutely aware of our own. There are great rewards in doing this, aside from being able to develop those around us, it allows for the development of gut and intuition.

“Einstein is well known for his use of intuition, and acknowledged that that was a very important part of his work. Mathematicians have long appreciated the fact that intuition is the function that really breaks new ground, and that logic and reason follow-up on the intuition for proof and validation.” - Dr. Frances Vaughan, President of the Association for Humanistic Psychology.

I’m not providing a new perspective here, one can find analysis of the self-concept phenomenon in almost every major business book on executive team downfall to works on eastern philosophy such as the Tao Te Ching. The interesting thing is that egos persist in almost every company on the planet. Being in executive search I have the interesting job of gleaning first hand accounts of how companies failed and the question “Why did you leave company X?”, more often than not leads to discussions on management team conflict.

Imagine what a company could accomplish if each member of the team had no degree of personal attachment to any specified outcome. Change would be instant, decisions would be based on a true view of the landscape, politics would be nonexistent and there would be a single agenda. Perhaps this is the next evolution of competitive advantage?

Mark Fitzpatrick is a Partner at Sterling-Hoffman, a retained executive search firm focused on VP Sales, VP Marketing, and CEO searches for enterprise software companies and lead investor in http://www.softwaresalesjobs.com, the # 1 site for software sales jobs. Mark can be reached for feedback at mark@sterlinghoffman.com


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