Developing your intuitive instinct

Last week we looked at what intuitive intelligence is and why it’s an important skill to develop as a leader.

In this week’s post, we delve a little deeper. What are the types of situations in which leaders need to rely on their intuitive intelligence? Here are just some, where your intuition can be harnessed and turned into concrete action plans:

  • During a crisis: When a rapid response is required and you’ve little time to go through a complete rational process of analysis.
  • Rapid change: When the factors upon which you make decisions change rapidly, without warning.
  • In messy situations: When a problem or challenge is poorly constructed.
  • In ambiguous situations: When the factors you need to consider are hard to articulate without sounding contradictory.

In order to help leaders build upon their innate intuition, thereby developing greater trust in those ‘flashes of insight’, your skills can be trained in the following:

  • Being present: Much like a martial arts master – centre yourself mentally and disconnect from the emotions of the situation. Don’t analyse or try to understand, just quietly observe. In a crisis, this can be done in just a matter of seconds. It’s the starting point to the engagement of your whole brain.
  • Seeing the whole picture: Interrogate the context of the issue. By becoming a detached observer of the situation, you can embrace the big picture. See what has gone on before and recall lessons from the past. Take in different perspectives and data points, including from others. This engages your intelligent memory, sparking off conversations and stimulating creative collaboration. One person’s observation can set off another and a chain reaction of insights emerges.
  • Clarifying your intention: Be clear on what you’re trying to achieve, bringing it to the front of your mind. This provides focus and helps you zoom in on the few things that are most important. The clearer and more resolute your intention, the faster and more reliable will be the ‘flash of insight’ that follows. In leadership training, we place emphasis on developing clarity of purpose. This requires deep reflection about you, where you’re headed and why.
  • Engaging your values: Either consciously or unconsciously, all choices and decisions are driven by what you value most. The clearer you are about the values and principles which guide you, the faster and more reliable will be your decision making and choice selection. When observing and examining any situation, your purpose and values engage together to provoke a flash of insight that ‘feels right’. This is when your intuition can be trusted.
  • Having a fierce resolve: Total commitment follows when there is a feeling of certainty about the things you ‘feel are right’. Your ability to trust and execute your choices, based on that ‘flash of insight’ requires consistent alignment of intention, words and actions. A decision is worthless unless it is bought into action and followed through without second-guessing or procrastination. In effective leadership, this is seen as having a fierce resolve to stay the course and do what needs to be done.

This five step process to developing your intuitive intelligence takes place at a sub-conscious level, even if do you use your conscious mind to formulate or rationalise the final results. We process information in parallel, not in sequence. So instead of going through the logical sequence one by one, you, as a leader, see the situation more as a whole, with different fragments emerging simultaneously in parallel.

You can train your brain to work as an advanced pattern recognition device. In a team setting this becomes even more powerful, as you replicate what happens in the brain in a group setting – which is how high-performing teams can develop creative solutions and collaborative action, based on their collective insights and wisdom.

Intuitive intelligence is a skill that, once recognised and developed, can help you navigate faster through large quantities of unstructured data and work through the gaps in the information. Even the most highly developed intuition, however, can be misdirected if too many of the facts are wrong or missing – which just highlights that it’s equally important to not neglect your rational side and be diligent when gathering facts for analysis.

Like most things in life, it’s all about getting the balance right. The intuitive mind can become your greatest weapon in business, if you learn how to use it confidently and accurately.