In Gut We Trust

I can remember the feeling like it was yesterday.  Nagging – worrisome – uncomfortable.  That was me after interviewing for and accepting a job offer at a new company.  I kept thinking – shouldn’t I feel excited and relieved?  After all, I went and applied for the job, got dressed up in my suit and nailed the interview.  Everything sounded good on paper – but there was just that something that I couldn’t explain – it didn’t quite “feel” right.

It’s what I like to call the “gut trick.”  Everything is progressing as normal and then that little voice sneaks in and tells us things aren’t as keen as they appear.

Call it what you will… gut, instinct, intuition…regardless of the word you use, it is code for listening to yourself and making the choice with your heart, not your head.  And the bottom line is – we don’t listen to ourselves enough!

Here are 3 steps to help you listen to your inner voice.

  1. Listen and Accept – This may seem obvious but it is important to pay attention to your gut during the decision making process.  Don’t push it away.  Chances are, if the little voice inside is talking, it is telling you the right thing.  Note – this one not applicable if you are a psychopath or serial killer.
  2. Evaluate – Think about your decisions from all angles and all possible outcomes.   Think about how you would feel in each scenario after the decision is made.
  3. Act – Make the choice that “feels” right.  It can be difficult, and sometimes even risky to follow your instincts but chances are it is worth it.

And you may be wondering what happened to me and that job I accepted?  After a night of tossing and turning I went into the office and begged my boss for my job back – told him I had felt I made the wrong decision.  He accepted my offer and within 3 months I was promoted to lead the team.

A great success thanks to my secret weapon – my intuition!

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  • 1
    February 18, 2011 - 8:03 pm | Permalink

    Liz, I agree that we undervalue intuition. Some time I tell people “turn off your brain, and answer with your heart.” This helps (me at least) dampen some of the noise around the situation and focus on the core issues.

    However, I worry about leaders who only manage by gut feel. They don’t use analytics to understand trends or to benchmark themselves against the competition. They always “know” the right answer based on their experience.

    It’s an odd balance. In most of my start-ups, my gut has often outweighed the facts; largely because we were plowing new ground. But if I was in risk management, or finance, or operations, or some other discipline, facts might win more often.

  • 2
    February 19, 2011 - 9:30 am | Permalink


    You bring up an interesting point regarding leaders who only manage by gut feel. This can certainly be a recipe for disaster.

    I think the best leaders have the ability to strike the ever-elusive balance between intuition and analytics, as you mentioned. The ability to understand and process the hard statistics of a situation while also being able to step away to reflect on the less tangible factors – like people and feelings – is certainly a strong skill…and one that I admire.

    Thank you for the thoughtful comment.


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