How many times have you watched a situation at work play out and said to yourself, ‘I knew that would happen’? Ever looked at a business proposal or met potential stakeholders and immediately felt a little off?
Leading your team to success or your business to the next level of growth takes vision, determination, and good decisions. But sometimes, the decisions we make end up creating a whole lot more work or pain for us and we find ourselves second-guessing our choices.
Next time you’re weighing up the pros and cons, take a moment to check in with your body and become aware of how you’re feeling. Those feelings, the little signals, are your intuition trying to get your attention, and it offers valuable clues about possible improvements or changes in direction that will deliver better outcomes and keep you on track with your goals.
Intuitive decision-making Vs cognitive decision-making
The science and psychology of decision-making are well documented. Studies into deliberative decision-making strategies, and the cognitive processes the brain goes through to arrive at a decision, have demonstrated that our decisions are based on a set of criteria relevant to the situation. Criteria are logical, left-brain concepts. The left brain is data-driven, evidence-based, procedural, and often rigid.
Intuitive decision-making utilizes right-brain functions and often involves more kinesthetic or feeling. In business, intuition is often referred to as instincts or gut feelings. But even when you are making intuitive decisions, you draw upon the solid foundation of the skills, knowledge, and experience you have, and quickly connect it all at an unconscious level and gain a physical or ‘inner signal’ to guide your decision.
Benefits of intuitive decision-making
The emerging interest in intuition and intuitive decision-making in business has resulted in some high-quality studies which have yielded encouraging results. One study found: “Our behavioural and physiological data, along with evidence-accumulator models, show that non-conscious emotional information can boost accuracy and confidence in a concurrent emotion-free decision task, while also speeding up response times.” 
Put simply, intuitive decision-making is a faster and more energy-efficient process. It allows you to:
- Quickly understand a situation and all the factors at play
- Easily see the bigger picture and potential alternatives to enhance business outcomes
- Maintain your energy level so you leave the office at the end of that day and still have enough left in the tank to spend with friends, family and doing the things that bring you joy.
Because intuitive decision-making is based on domain expertise and all your accumulated industry knowledge over the years you can consistently make informed, guided decisions without stress, overthinking, and second-guessing.
How do you ‘tune in’ to your intuitive signals?
Here’s a quick exercise to familiarize yourself with your body’s intuitive signals. Think about something you are working on right now;
- Do you feel light and bright, or flat and low?
- Where in your body do you feel that?
- What aspect of that project makes you feel that way?
This is the first step in learning how to recognize and understand the subtle signals your intuition is sending you. It is the key step in evolving your decision-making into a ‘psychophysical’ process. A process where your body acts as the mind and quickly accesses everything you need to understand a situation and make a clear distinction between the positive and negative aspects and potential outcomes of any future actions.
How can you apply this to your role as a leader?
By consciously tuning-in to and trusting your intuitive signals, you are accessing a guided, empathetic, higher perspective. Managing teams, engaging with stakeholders, or setting strategic objectives is greatly enhanced by your higher perspective. As a leader, you can apply this to create outcomes that offer multiple benefits to your business.
- Setting strategic directions. Let’s say your business is in a growth phase. You can use intuitive decision-making to identify the best strategies to leverage current trends or areas to invest in to support more growth while being fully aligned with your highest intentions for your business.
- Negotiations and stakeholder engagement. You can tune-in when heading into a meeting to gauge the ‘vibe’ of the group and adjust your pitch, so it fosters greater buy-in and collaboration.
- Team building and staff engagement. Need to get the gang together? Use your intuition to identify the best combinations of team members to pair on projects or how to fire them up and inspire them to support a shared vision.
- Setting professional and personal goals. Sometimes we work towards a goal merely to tick a box or because it is what is expected of us. Tune into your goals to understand true personal alignment and inspiration. If you feel flat when thinking about climbing Mt. Everest, maybe you could re-focus and aim for something that truly ignites your spirit.
Still not convinced? Even Oprah Winfrey says, “Learning to trust your instincts, using your intuitive sense of what’s best for you, is paramount for any lasting success.”
Because you have a background of experience and subject matter knowledge to draw upon, trusting your intuition when making business decisions is not just blind faith or throwing caution to the wind.
It’s about having a recognized, mind-body process that you can strengthen, tune into and trust to guide you to the business opportunities and outcomes of an inspired, successful leader.
 Galang, Lufityanto., Donkin, Chris., and Pearson, Joel. ‘Measuring intuition: nonconscious emotional information boosts decision accuracy and confidence.’ Psychological science 27.5 (2016): 622-634.