You have a gut instinct about almost everything that comes across your radar.
Before you even say anything out loud, often you have an intuitive sense of whether you should move ahead or not, whether you should jump in or step back, or whether someone is trustworthy or not.
The question is, how do you know if you can trust your gut reaction as a leader?
For me personally, that’s been an interesting journey. I trusted my gut a lot in the early days of leadership, and it paid off. Our church grew. The mission moved forward. It was an incredible journey.
But sometimes I trusted my gut so much I excluded other people from the process of decision making. I would often find myself saying things like, “I don’t know why … I just know. This is what we should do.”
As I matured as a leader, I learned to check my gut instinct with more prayer, discussion, discernment and input from others. So much so that I almost forgot about my gut instinct in many situations.
There’s wisdom in that, for sure. But sometimes I would look back on a situation and think, “I wish we would have just gone for it/avoided that,” because I knew, deep down, my gut would have taken us in a different direction.
Over the last few years I’ve tried to pay more attention to my gut instinct AND value team input around me. Not an easy feat.
But back to the original question … as a leader, how can you know when you should trust your gut reaction? Your gut isn’t always reliable, is it?
Here are five questions I’m learning to ask to help with that.
1. Has my intuition been reliable in the past?
If you’ve led (or lived) for any length of time, your gut has a track record.
Have your impulsive reactions usually led you and others around you to a great place or into danger?
If your impulses lead you into a series of speeding tickets, debt or reckless decisions that hurt people … your gut instinct probably isn’t that reliable. If it leads you to slow down for safety’s sake, walk away and think about it, or to care about how other people feel … well, those are better instincts.
Take a look at the track record of instinctive personal and leadership decisions you’ve made: Are you and the people around you better or worse off because of them?
You might discover that your track record in certain areas (like personnel) is stellar, but in other areas (say finance) your gut is too conservative or too risky.
Once you understand the patterns, you’ll be better able to know when to trust your intuition and when to check it.