Why going with your gut is not good enough

I’m always impressed by folks I know who possess keen instincts for making the right decisions in the right place at the right time. You know the type; the ones that forgo reading the comprehensive, detailed analysis compiled by their staff in favor of going with their gut.

The reality is that while the executive’s decision may be right more often than not, when it goes bad, it goes REALLY bad.

Making key strategic decisions based solely on how it feels at that moment in time is as dangerous – if not more so – than getting caught up in every minute detail to the point that the opportunity is missed altogether. There’s been a great deal of writings over the years about how it’s important not to micromanage projects to death, but I would submit that the same hazards exist by not staying informed and involving other people’s intuition. The answer is finding the right balance between the benefits of getting enough supporting data without causing stagnation. Here are some ways to do it.

Keep up to date on your reading
The best way to make quick decisions is to be prepared. While issues will come up seemingly from nowhere that require immediate action, you’ll be better served by staying up on all the trade journals, industry analysis and other outlets that offer objective data about your markets. I take at least 15-30 minutes each day to do this; incorporating it part of my normal routine. Make it a New Year’s resolution to chip away at the stack of periodicals at the corner of the desk.

Never eat alone
There’s a great book with the same name by Keith Ferrazzi pertaining to building and leveraging key relationships. Most readers look at this book as a blue print for new business development, but such practices can also be leveraged for other executive decision making. Peers and co-workers are a terrific resource for bouncing off ideas and decisions. The old adage of "you’re not alone" is true, and chances are the issues you’re wrestling with are familiar to others who may have dealt with similar circumstances over their careers. Along these lines, rarely a week goes by where I’m not having coffee, lunch or a cold beer with a colleague or business associate where we can bounce ideas and issues around. 

Ask for input
Dust off that suggestion box in the employee lounge and put it to good use. Some of the best ideas can come from team members who are struggling with a problem first hand. What’s more, an executive’s "gut feel" isn’t the only intuition to care about. Management by walking around and communicating with your staff is also a good way to get others to chime in; getting away from your desk and talking with employees about issues of the day can be a great intelligence gathering tactic.

At my company, Red Door Interactive, we have a "Start, Stop and Keep" initiative where I request feedback from all staff members on internal programs that the company should start, stop or keep doing.

Focus on your core values
A good litmus test for any manager when looking at options is how they align with a company’s mission and guiding principles. Such statements can help ensure you stay true to the organization’s purpose. If a decision is in conflict with your stated values, it’s probably not a good one to make.

While I’m certainly not an advocate or example of retaining every little grain of knowledge or looking up every footnote in a report, I do believe that going strictly on instinct will, in the long run, cause more harm than good. Managers must make decisions; the key is in being prepared to do so when necessary.

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