What, if anything, is making you anxious right now? If you are anxious, how bad is it? What if you could learn to shift that anxiety into something useful?

Anxiety is a feeling of fear about what might happen or what might fail. We have all had that feeling as well: when you walk into that exam that you really didn’t study for, or when you hit turbulence over the Pacific and the pilot tells everyone to buckle up…

On the other hand, anticipation is the excitement of something that’s going to happen. You feel anticipation on the way to Disney World for the first time, before you walk down the aisle, or when you step onto the stage to receive your first diploma.

We are at our best when we choose Anticipation over Anxiety. It’s not always simple; as you face uncertainty, you can think the worst is going to happen and get nervous, or you can think the best thing is going to happen and get excited. In looking at the current world situation and business environment, there is uncertainty about the upcoming year. Will the pandemic threat diminish? Will it accelerate? What will be the effects on global economies and business organizations?

Despite these uncertainties, each of us can choose how to approach the new fiscal year. In my mind, the key is preparation. I’ve always believed that if I prepare myself thoroughly, it’s much easier to undertake a difficult challenge. A few weeks ago, at one of our corporate team events, we were honored to have American football great Peyton Manning as a guest speaker. When asked about being nervous, Peyton explained that he’s always been a person who’s over-prepared himself.

He said, “If I go into something, I know that I’m going to be prepared. I may have some butterflies, but I’m not paralyzed by nerves. I’m not anxious, because I know that I’ve prepared.”

So, how can this be applied within our teams, as we launch FY21? How can each of us be better prepared to face the uncertainties ahead?

First, you should fully understand your account, customers, and prospects. What are their priorities? How has their business model changed over the past six months? Do you understand what their key priorities are and how they are now serving their customers? Without an updated understanding of their situation, you can be surprised.  Take the time to continually prepare and minimize the surprises.

Second, anticipate different moves that could happen. Think like a chess player, where the other party can make several different decisions, and prepare for a variety of scenarios. Even though many options you consider will never happen, it’s still a better use of your time than being surprised and having to react to something unexpected.

Third, in order to accomplish the first two goals, you need to be close to your customers and/or partners right now. Spend time with them and ask questions to deepen your understanding of their perspectives and what actions are under consideration. Many organizations are throwing out their old playbooks and rewriting how they do business. You need an updated, solid understanding of what your key stakeholder organizations are doing and how they are reacting.

Fourth, if you have anxiety, identify what is causing it. Once you know the cause, explore how it can be flipped into an opportunity. Shift that anxiety into anticipation. In these times, we all need to be better prepared and understand the opportunities that are out there.

Finally, go beyond idea generation and prepare yourself to execute on strategies. Everybody wants to come to the strategy table, but far fewer want to be responsible for implementing ideas and strategies. There’s no real responsibility in throwing ideas around, so you can differentiate yourself by pursuing the execution options within different proposed solutions. One excellent book on this topic that I’ve kept on my shelf for years is “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done” by Larry Bossidy. If you haven’t read this, I highly recommend it.

Despite the numerous challenges facing our world and businesses, I am anticipating a great FY21. I know we’ll be successful because of the culture we have built, because of the talent on our team, and because we’ll be prepared to execute.


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Keith Dyer

VP, IBM Alliance

Global Enterprise Sales and Partner Organization