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The Trigger Tsunami: How Dark Is Your Shadow?

By Dr. Paul Hertz and Chris Dowse  |  Posted 05-19-2009 Print

The Trigger Tsunami: How Dark Is Your Shadow?

In our study, two of the nine Unconscious Motivators emerged as dominant in the IT management landscape. The first, Unconscious Motivator No. 8, is a desire for strength, action and self-reliance. The second, Unconscious Motivator No. 1, is a need to do things right and continually strive for perfection. These motivational needs have a heavy impact on IT management behavior and define the nature of an IT organization's culture and its imprint on the IT-business relationship.

Given the demanding pace and competition in most business environments, it's no wonder that IT-business relationships are slow to change. Both dominant IT Unconscious Motivators are constantly assaulted by business dynamics that trigger a set of automatic, negative responses, or the Shadow side of personality.

Unconscious Motivator No. 1 is all about "doing it right" and continuously improving. That's a noble, lofty goal, but it's largely at odds with ever-changing business priorities and demands, uncertain or conflicting business strategies, and a rise in short-term business focus that rewards speed over quality. Although Unconscious Motivator No. 8 is more in sync with these conditions, this Unconscious Motivator is triggered when mired in legacy system quicksand that limits speed and capability or when other business units criticize or dictate the terms of IT responsiveness--or simply go around the IT shop to get what they want. (See chart at left).

When such triggers are increasing and powerful, we can expect IT leaders to be pushed into increasingly higher-intensity Shadow behavior over time. Unfortunately, since Shadow behavior begets Shadow responses, the cycle becomes self-sustaining and detrimental to an organization's performance. The instinctive IT leadership response (for both Unconscious Motivators No. 8 and No. 1) to being triggered is to become closed, inflexible and defensive--the opposite of what is needed to engender partnerships. And IT management is likely to direct Shadow behavior back into IT, potentially becoming aggressive and blaming of IT peers and resources.

Left unchecked, these conditions coalesce into the perfect storm of triggers, making it virtually impossible to avoid Shadow responses. Furthermore, the frequency, intensity and duration of these Shadow responses to triggers are proportional to the damage created in the IT shop's relationship with the rest of the world and within itself.

It doesn't have to be this way. By learning to recognize triggers and manage responses, we can stay in Best Self mode. (See chart on following page for a sample of the spectrum of behaviors for the two dominant IT Unconscious Motivators.)


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