Over the years, as we grow from a little molehill to (in some cases) a mountain, we develop a sense of what we like and dislike, what’s good and bad, right and wrong, important or meaningless. What develops in the core of our hilltop is in fact a set of values and beliefs. These may change over time, but at any point in our lives we all have a core set of values and beliefs that are central to our hilltop. For many of us, in the normal course of daily life, our central beliefs and values are rarely the subject of introspection – life is too fast for that. We choose, we decide, we make judgments and take action without conscious reference to them. However, they are always there, acting as an inner template for all of our activities. For example, ‘I value my department or organisation, therefore I defend it when it is attacked,’ or ‘I value life, the lives of others and my car, therefore I always drive with care’. We all have values and beliefs at the core of our hilltop. They govern all we do.
If you accept the idea that your hilltop is a product of the unique tapestry of your life, of all your experiences, knowledge, feelings, values, preferences and prejudices, then you will inevitably conclude that your hilltop governs two all-embracing activities – what you perceive and what you express – or, more simply, what you take in and what you give out.
The filters of the mind.
Whatever your hilltop is, it will affect the way you see things. If you value justice you will look for fairness in your transactions. If you value winning you will look for opportunities to compete. If you value rationality you will look for the logic in arguments. When people take on a role, they add to their hilltop a role perception. This makes them see things from a different angle. So, a marketing expert does not watch an advertisement from the same perspective as the consumer it is aimed at. An accountant sees a financial report differently from a salesperson. A production line operator sees his or her company from a very different perspective to that of a managing director.
Do you know people who have a particular brand of ‘ism’ – environmentalism, sexism, racism, capitalism, chauvinism etc? Whatever the focus, an ‘ism’ is an encapsulation of a belief system, core values in a person’s hilltop. This produces a certain perspective when the person is confronted by any data, a television programme, newspaper article, incident, etc. All are subjected to the same process of evaluation, interpretation and reaction based on that particular hilltop. What an ‘ism’ does basically is govern how things are understood, what meaning is taken from the data. The stronger the ‘ism’, the more it limits any other possible interpretation being considered.
There are many people who, justifiably, would claim not to have such strong beliefs. So, how do you personally make judgments about things? How, for example, do you form opinions about what your company or department is doing? What is the basis on which you judge a thing to be right or wrong? On what basis do you make decisions?
Take any issue about which you have an opinion (it can be domestic, work, political, social – it doesn’t matter what the focus is). Instead of describing or explaining your opinion, ask yourself why you think or feel that way about the issue. Ask yourself what belief system underpins your position. Ask why again and again, until you can say ‘Because I believe that.’
Finding what we want to find.
Another interesting phenomenon we have observed is the idea that what we see is in no small measure dictated by what we look for. Have you ever had the experience of buying something, such as a model of car or mobile phone that you had never noticed before, and found that suddenly you see it everywhere? The simple fact of owning one suddenly makes them highly visible! Of course they were there all the time but only attracted your attention when they became in some way relevant to you, a little piece of your identity. What about the way we view other people? What lies at the basis of how you form opinions of others? When you think of the people you admire, what is it that you admire about them? And what is it that you find distasteful about the people you dislike?
It is interesting that no matter who you have as your heroes, they will probably be someone else’s villains. What you see in people that you value is seen very differently by others and perhaps devalued. The same qualities are being described from different hilltops:
- confident becomes arrogant,
- determined becomes ruthless,
- persuasive becomes manipulative,
- self-assured becomes egotistical,
- warm becomes phoney,
- studious becomes pedantic,
- sensitive becomes sentimental,
- dynamic becomes macho,
- committed becomes tunnel-visioned,
- freedom-fighting becomes terroristic.
The point is that how we judge others is not based on external ‘facts’ that everyone agrees on, but on the things that each of us looks for and values in other people. How we judge others is more dependent on our own hilltop than on their behaviour.
We know a businessman who actually seems to trust no-one in the world, except perhaps his wife and dog (and we are not even sure about that). From his hilltop, therefore, when he peers out of his office window at his customers, staff and sales people, he finds his world full of untrustworthy people. Now, you may have a hilltop that resists the notion that we judge others, feeling that it is in some way wrong to judge. However, it can be possible to judge others without the negative connotations usually associated with the word ‘judgment’. Similarly, the word ‘discrimination’ has in our society taken on an ugly meaning, while the true usage of these words denotes some of the higher powers of the human mind: without the ability to make judgments or to discriminate between things we simply could not learn.
If you find yourself in a recruitment situation, or a position in which you have to choose between people, what do you look for above and beyond the job specification? We all know the tendency, particularly in long-established organisations, to recruit in one’s own image and in new entrepreneurial organisations to recruit in the image of the founder members. There are thousands of people who never get promoted because they do not match the template their immediate superior has of someone ‘fitted’ or ‘suited’ to a higher post. There are many organisations where the recruitment focus asks, ‘Are they our kind of person?’
So in summary, having a hilltop, whatever it may be, governs our perception of the world. It determines how we see things, how we view others or interpret events. It determines what we look out for and what we consider to be important. We realise that this may sound obvious and, in some ways, pure common sense. However, we have found that such sense is not that common. We actually meet few people who clearly demonstrate that they are aware that what they experience is only what they experience, and not necessarily the definitive version. How often do you hear people say things like: ‘No, you’re wrong’, or ‘In actual fact, the truth of the matter is’ rather than, ‘My perception of it is like this…’ or ‘What I experienced was….’