Trust Your Instincts

THE GEAR YOU NEEDIntuition is a leadership skill that is hard, if not impossible to teach. Yet it is one that I’m constantly saying to young leaders I’m working with. “Trust your instincts.” Trusting your instincts is not abandoning reason or thoughtfulness or even not taking time to consult with others. That’s leadership arrogance or leadership stupidity. But sometimes you don’t have time to do those things. Sometimes the decision has to be made quickly. And sometimes conventional wisdom and the opinions of others are wrong. That’s where instincts come in.

Trusting your instincts is the awareness that sometimes the answer is already within you.

Trusting your instincts is the awareness that sometimes the answer is already within you. It’s buried there between the code of all that you have read, experienced and observed. You can’t explain it, but you can SENSE it. It’s like the image in one of those maddening 3-D pictures you look at. It looks like a chaos of lines, colors and shapes. Then suddenly, while you’re staring THROUGH it, the dolphins appear. It’s a euphoric moment. My wife can’t see 3-D pictures. No matter how hard she tries. She has one near-sighted eye and one far-sighted eye. And some of us are never going to be as good as others at instinctive leadership. But ALL of us can get better at it. Here are just a couple of tips:

Quiet yourself. Instincts are coming from WITHIN you as it perceives what’s going on around you. It’s hard to hear the instinctive voice when you’re bombarding yourself with data. Give yourself some space to listen to YOU.

First impression.  What was your FIRST reaction to what you’re trying to solve? Instincts work at almost quantum level of speed. Instantaneous. Which is why our first response is often the right one.

Track it. For those who are not as risk taking with instincts and need a little data, do some journaling. Whenever you are posed with a question or decision, write down what you think your instinctive response is. Track how often your first reaction is the right one. Reminding yourself how often you are right will boost your confidence.

Don’t get cocky. One of the dangers for those of us who have good instincts is that we can become lazy. We trust our instincts as a short cut to the answer. It saves us the hard work of dialogue, research and those long, boring meetings. But when time allows for those things, processes are great ego checks and safety nets. They also feed the soil in which our instincts work. All of those opinions and ideas make their way into the “code” that our instincts operate out of. So don’t look to your instincts to replace good collaboration. You’re cheating yourself as well as your organization.

For those of you who haven’t read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, it’s an interesting study on this subject.

Do you trust your instincts? Have you ever tried to develop them?



Post contributed by Steve Chiles, Senior Pastor of Shartel Church of God, in Oklahoma City, OK. He is a coach and consultant with HGC, as well as, providing leadership with the Network Gathering.