Personal Productivity

Hello manager; Do you trust your intuition?

How do you navigate between data and intuition when making decisions as a leader? Lise Bartell puts in a warm word for intuition in a time when data is increasingly becoming the answer.

Decisions - intuition or data.
18 Apr 2023 | 5 min read
Lise Bartell
Owner and CEO of the consultancy Bartell + Co. Since 2004, Lise Bartell has been a successful consultant, speaker on leadership and communication, and entrepreneur with clients in large corporations and SMEs.

Intuition can be a guide in our decision-making process.

It can help us make decisions that feel right and authentic to us, even when they don't follow the logical or sensible path. Sometimes our intuition can tell us to take a risk, say no to an opportunity or even to move in a completely different direction.

Listening to our intuition is a learning process and can take some time learning to trust and distinguish between our inner voice, other factors such as data, analysis, fear and judgement.

In this process, data becomes a learning tool - not an irrefutable source of truth.

Fear of failure makes us favour data

In reality, many of us are afraid to use our intuition and listen to our gut feeling. Yes, I would even venture to say that we are afraid of not being able to justify our decisions to others if we are wrong. That we will appear inept, naive or foolish.

Numbers, analysis and evidence need to be put on the table. In reality, it's often about securing your own position and justifying your decisions.

The problem is that in doing so, we miss out on all the non-quantifiable knowledge that is available. The numbers are only part of the picture.

And you're no less likely to be wrong if you exclude a large part of your experience base from the decision

Intuition is your inner, personally earned compass

If I describe intuition - it's a special ability that we all possess. It's our inner voice, our instincts, our feelings that help us navigate through life professionally and personally. Defining intuition can be challenging, but it's often described as a sense of certainty or a sudden insight.

However, our intuition is an important part of us and our personal development. By listening to our intuition, we can take responsibility for our lives and business by making decisions that are in line with our values and deepest desires.

In the creation of my leadership book Stardust on the Leadership Corridor - formulas for future leadership in SME companies, I have met many leaders, CEOs, directors and owners, who in their career use their intuition or as others call it their gut feeling - like this quote from a Vice President:

"I've taken a lot of beatings over the years, so I've learnt to go with my gut."
Erik Lomholt Vice Precident, Global sourcing Jacob Holm & Sons, Schweiz

Erik Lomholt has worked with different cultures all over the world in his career. That's why he has developed his intuition and people skills as a leader.

Use data and intuition to make informed, intuitive decisions

When it comes to decision-making, your intuition and experience can play an important role in complementing data-driven analyses.

This is especially relevant in situations where there isn't enough data to make the right decision. Or where data is confusing or contradictory. In these cases, intuition and experience can help guide decisions based on past experiences, personal hunches or emotions.

At the same time, a data-driven approach can help validate and reinforce intuition.

By using data to support or reject intuition, you can make more informed decisions or minimise the risk of misjudgement.

Put another way, if you are in doubt about a decision, obtain and collect more data to make the right decision.

The same applies to making the right decision as a consultant.

Build a transparent data foundation to support your intuition

Transparency with data is the first step towards gaining the necessary insight along with intuition to create results and a valid data foundation.

For example, the first step could be to start with time tracking to collect data.

Time tracking allows us to analyse our time in order to select and deselect tasks that create value and specifically find the time wasters - in order to adjust our time consumption.

Time tracking and using intuition may seem like opposing approaches, as one focuses on being analytical and accurate, while the other is more emotional and subjective.

However, both approaches can be useful at different times and in different situations.

When it comes to creativity and innovation - or thinking outside the box and challenging the hamster wheel of business, your intuition can play a very important role in generating new ideas and perspectives.

Meanwhile, timeframes and analysis can help you assess and validate these ideas and provide a more objective assessment of resources or potential.

When the numbers say otherwise

When you have an experience of knowing what's right and wrong, even if the numbers say otherwise, stick to that opinion.

It's your intuition and your sixth sense talking to you. Make it easier for you to listen to your intuition - trust it when it speaks to you.

During my many years of self-employment, there have been several times when I've convinced myself not to listen to my intuition, even though it's quite sharp and usually proves to be worth listening to.

In those situations, I have gone in a direction where my intuition from the start said "don't go there", and it has cost me blood, sweat, tears - and a lot of money.

As a quote from CEO Carsten Madsen touches on:

"The more I practice, the luckier I am when I also trust my intuition and values."
Carsten Madsen CEO Morning Score

Are you ignoring your intuition, boss?

Whether the intuitive message comes to you in relation to an employee, a customer or something else entirely, it's important to pay attention to it and notice what happens when you ignore it.

Sometimes we even repeatedly fail to hear it.

It doesn't have to be a warning or a sense that something is wrong. It can also be a positive idea that keeps popping up in your mind. If this idea insists on staying with you, it might be worth examining your mindset to find a more honest answer as to why you're rejecting it.

Is it fear-based? Or is there another intuitive feeling present at the same time that says it's not a good idea?

Here, it's all about being sensitive to which emotion or feeling for the idea is the most important - and which makes you the happiest to think about.

Decide to use your intuition to qualify data - and then practice!

Today, I lead and make decisions via my intuition and trust my intuition every time it comes to me, almost like a big bell ringing in my ears.

My intuition arises in different contexts; in management, with business partners, in traffic, when carrying out a project and when I have to say YES to a new customer, etc.

Using data personally also gives me a greater perspective to make the right decision in different areas of my life.

What will the world look like for you in the future when you need to use facts and data - privately or in your job - and you start using your intuition as a filter to make the right decisions?

The quick answer would be - decide and do it.

Practice it - practice makes perfect and your intuition will become stronger and sharper over time. And you'll find yourself making better decisions in all areas of your life