Thursday, June 02, 2011

Going with Your Gut

One of the core competencies of a leader is the ability to make wise decisions. Often times, the decision-making process is clouded by a host of relational issues: How will people look at me if I make this decision? Will I make friends or enemies? Frequently we become paralyzed by what may or may not occur as a result of the decision: How will this affect my career? Will I be promoted or fired? With so much riding on the choices you make, how do you make wise decisions, especially when the issues swirling around a decision can make your head spin?
It's been called listening to your intuition or following the blessed impulse. Most often it is affectionately referred to as going with your gut. It's an inner compass--a hunch, an inkling--based upon a mysterious mix of our beliefs, our experiences, and our conscience which gives us the ability to choose wisely. It's that innate ability all of us have to make choices without all of the facts or without knowing how a decision will affect the future. Leadership books and coaches talk about this idea. And while it's nice to learn about it, knowing about this concept in your head is miles apart from actually using one's gut to make a decision--especially a difficult one. Going with your gut on tough decisions can cause you to do a lot of soul-searching and can often be quite gut-wrenching!

Going with your gut is an art. The discernment it takes to make wise decisions doesn't come naturally. It must be developed. Sometimes we're right in the decisions we make and sometimes we're wrong. But through this decision-making process we learn from the choices we make--whether good or bad--and our instincts to make wise decisions are honed. When asked what one thing he would do differently if he could start his business career over again, long-time successful CEO of General Electric and leadership guru Jack Welch says he would act upon his gut instincts sooner.

When I was working on my PhD, I observed a process in which we doctoral students came to a point of saturation in our field and we felt competent to "hang" with the established scholars. We were no longer students: we were equals (if less experienced equals). It's the same when it comes to good decision-making. When you've been involved in enough decision-making situations to see the same patterns emerging over and over again, you start to feel less intimidated by the prospect of making a bad decision and more confident you'll make the right one.

I am slowly coming to grips with the fact that I feel comfortable with the decisions I make. In situations past, I've spent months wringing my hands before making a decision I knew in my heart of hearts was the best thing to do. I'm learning to make decisions quicker--to go with my gut sooner. And I'm also learning that going with my gut gives our team a renewed sense of energy and vigor and refocuses us on our mission, especially if we're bogged down in the decision-making process.

So the next time you have an important decision to make and you're worried about the social fallout, or you're experiencing paralysis by analysis, just dig deep into your heart and soul and honestly ask yourself what the best decision to make is ... and then just GO WITH YOUR GUT!