“My gut tells me…”
“I have this gut feeling…”
“Trust your gut…”
(All these sound sort of gross when used out of context, don’t they??)
Exactly when should senior leaders “trust their gut” when making decisions??
First, gut instincts are simply visceral descriptors for “judgment,” which is clearly a function of senior leadership. Solid facts may trump judgment/gut instinct, but full information, e.g., “facts,” aren’t often available.
So, when to “trust your gut? In these three instances…
1. Hiring new talent. Hiring is – and always will be – something of a crap-shoot. Assessments help; behavioral interviewing makes further progress. Background checks and other such methods can validate and reinforce, but at best, these things bring us to maybe 80% certainty for any given hire. Make the cuts as objectively as you can, then use that trusted gut instinct for the final decision.
2. Forecasting organizational performance is simply educated guessing. Get as many facts as possible, consider appropriate and likely scenarios, model the financials when proposed details are available, then reach down deep – those gut instincts are where we separate senior-leadership from those who may likely say “Wow, I just don’t know…”
3. When further delays in decision-making will not yield additional information. I’ve always coached senior leaders to take the time available to ponder and decide – provided that additional time will likely yield additional information and your mind is open to change. When either of those holds untrue, it’s time to pull the trigger, trust your gut, and decide. To paraphrase Patton: an average decision made today trumps a brilliant decision made two weeks from now.
In reality, most decisions at the senior-most levels have a component of “gut-trusting” in the mix. Seldom do senior executives have the luxury of full information, and closing that gap between available information and successful decision-making is precisely where “trusting their gut” is not only necessary, but an expected component of successful leadership.
But that’s just me…