In today’s fast-paced environment, decisions need to be made swiftly and accurately. While many top executives won’t publicize it, intuition is a key part of their decision-making success. A survey by executive search firm Christian & Timbers showed that, among 601 executive at Fortune 1000 companies, 55% perceive that they base their decisions on facts and figures, while 45% say they rely more heavily on their intuition.
“The crazier the times are, the more important it is for leaders to develop and to trust their intuition,” suggests management guru, Tom Peters. Once thought of as the domain of the “gifted few,” intuition is in fact, readily available to us all. It can be an important component in making hiring decisions, motivating staff, increasing sales, accessing partnerships and predicting industry trends.
Roy Rowan, author of “The Intuitive Manager,” states “Logic and analysis can lead a person only partway down the path to a profitable decision. The last step to success frequently requires a daring intuitive leap.” Intuition is the secret weapon of many successful leaders. They describe it as knowing something directly without going through a long analytical process.
What is Intuition?
The dictionary defines intuition as immediate cognition, “quick and ready” insight or the act or faculty of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes. It comes from the Latin word “intueri” which means to “look within.” Intuition is direct and immediate knowledge. It tells you what you need to know, when you need to know it.
Intuition is a resource that provides an additional level of information that does not come from the analytical, logical, rational side of the brain. It can be a reliable and valuable tool when its language is understood and developed. Accurate intuition enables you to gain vital and valuable insight into yourself, your children, friends, business associates and the world around you.
How do you receive intuitive information?
There are four primary ways that you receive intuitive information. You’ll learn through practice which is your strongest.
Emotions: Intuitive information often comes through your feelings or emotions. You may simply “feel right” about your decision to hire that new business consultant. Or conversely you might experience an unexplained sense of distrust despite this individual’s great credentials.
Physical or kinesthetic: The Japanese call using intuition “stomach art.” We call such sensations a “gut feeling.” You’ve just been offered the “perfect job” and yet you notice that when you think about accepting the position your body feels heavy or there’s a knot in your stomach. My client Jane reported she felt this way after receiving a recent job offer. She couldn’t shake the impression that something was “not right” with the company. She described feeling physically uncomfortable when she thought of joining the firm. Despite her reservations, she accepted the position because she couldn’t think of any logical reason to turn it down. The company went bankrupt within three months after she started.
Thoughts/mind: You may receive a sudden flash of understanding. This is sometimes called the “Eureka” effect. My colleague John is a national sales leader in his industry. When I asked him how he explains his success he described an interesting practice. He told me that before he meets with a client he asks his intuition a series of questions such as, “What do I need to know about this company?” “What is the best way to approach the decision maker?” “What should I know about who I’m competing against for this sale?” “What can I do to win this account?” He sits with pen in hand and quiets his thoughts and explains that the intuitive answers come into his mind as he writes.
Images: It’s true that a picture can be worth a thousand words because Intuitive information often comes to us in symbols. Gary Watson, owner of GW Copywriting Services, uses this imagery method when intuitively assessing new business projects. “I might receive a symbolic impression of a rocky road if I choose Path A. If I choose the alternative Path B, I may see a clear, well-paved path in my mind’s eye. I’ve used my intuition to make decisions for years and it’s never failed me.” For many people, intuitive information means pictures or images in their mind and receiving whole answers in a flash.
Intuitive Information Exercise
Intuitive information comes to you most easily when you’re in a relaxed state of mind. To get into a receptive mode, put your calls on hold, shut the door, close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths.
Bring to mind the issue or problem you’re trying to solve. Ask your intuition a question about your concerns. You will get the most helpful information if you can phrase your question in a way that evokes more than a “yes or no” answer. “How can I communicate more effectively with Barbara?” or “How can I increase the productivity of my sales staff?” or “What outcome can I expect if I hire Mary Jones, the management consultant?”
Remain in a quiet and receptive state. Intuition is often described as “still and quiet.” It doesn’t usually answer in a big, booming voice. It is much subtler. Pay attention to any images you receive, words you hear, physical sensations you experience or emotions you feel. These are all ways that intuition will communicate with you. Write down any impressions you receive. Some people find that intuitive insights will pop into their mind hours after doing this exercise as they’re driving home or preparing dinner.
Assessing Intuitive Data
You have to make a choice. You’ve done due diligence. You’ve researched, asked questions and have all the facts in front of you. You still don’t know what decision to make. The next step you take requires intuitive input. Here are five questions to stimulate the guidance from your intuition.
1. What am I ready to act on right now?
Your decision may require a small step, not a huge leap. Quite often when you take a step forward more information becomes available to you. Many people report that as they make an intuitive choice towards what proves to be a correct decision, events begin flowing more easily and effortlessly. Doors to opportunity open and synchronicity and coincidence begin to occur.
2. Which of my choices has the most “vitality?”
Think of the options you have before you. Which one are you drawn to? Is there one that leaps to your attention and captures your interest? You may experience a visceral charge about pursuing this course of action. Remember that kinesthetic or physical sensations are one of the ways that intuition communicates.
3. How do I feel about my choices?
Do you feel excited or passionate about one more than the others? This is one of the ways that intuition will point to the direction you should follow. Conversely, if a choice makes you feel depressed or discouraged, or you feel a great deal of resistance, you’re ignoring a strong intuitive message if you continue on this path.
4. What do I think about this decision?
Many people have great success receiving intuitive information through writing. This technique is similar to brainstorming. Write a series of questions about your choices. Suppose you have to make a decision to fill a position in your company. You might write, “If I hire Mary will the company’s sales increase?” “If I hire her will this be a positive choice?” “Will she communicate effectively with her direct reports?” “Is she a team player?” “What are her strengths?” “What are her weaknesses?” When you have completed your questions, write the answers quickly just as they come to you. Repeat the questions and answers with each potential employee and then assess your answers.
Like any skill, the more you practice, the better you’ll get. Make the time to routinely check in with your intuition and you will be rewarded with faster, stronger and more accurate insight. The benefit? You’ll gain a competitive advantage that will help you become a better player in the new economy.