As technology continues to advance, the customer is dramatically influencing and shaping product and service development of businesses like never before. Agility is no longer an option with instant feedback, customer engagement and reviews. One of the outcomes of this reality is that businesses are welcoming intuition as a necessary component to integrate into leadership, management, decision-making, customer service, and every facet of a business. The more the collective wisdom of the group is incorporated, the better.
What was once thought of as soft science and esoteric is now becoming quite practical and a necessary advantage for companies that embrace deeper intelligence and outside-the-box thinking. This is one of the big reasons that intuition and intuitive leadership are becoming some of the hottest buzzwords in business today as reflected in the latest articles in the top business magazines such as the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, INC, Entrepreneur and Forbes.
Intuition is commonly identified as coming from a different source than the rational mind. It is often defined as the ability to know something immediately without conscious reasoning. In other words, being able to download something instantly without having to spend a lot of time in deep analysis and laborious decision-making. This can happen in terms of an instant awareness inside of yourself, others, or with the environment at-large as a major data point to include.
And while intuition is often seen as something you either have or you don’t, what if it can actually be cultivated? What if intuition can be developed with your team? What if you can create an environment that promotes outside-the-box thinking, trusting one’s gut, and a ‘switched-on’ atmosphere at work?
The key question is not if intuitive leadership is a distinct advantage, but instead, how do I teach this to my team? Here are some practical tools that you can use with your staff to encourage intuitive and outside-the-box thinking:
So often staff find themselves working under the gun of a big deadline or hitting a monthly target, that taking a break or a pause in the action is not valued. In fact it is seen as counterproductive and a waste of time. Drivenness is often seen as the hallmark of productivity in business culture.
Yet if you are focusing too long on the same problem or staring at the same email for 15 minutes it is actually counterproductive. Sometimes the best thing we can do for a perspective shift and outside-the-box thinking is to literally get out of the office, get some fresh air, and go for a walk. Some of the most intuitive moments happen when you put down your work momentarily and change your mindset.
In fact, a business I have worked with does this routinely and encourages staff to self-monitor when they need to shake things up and go for a walk around the block. Many times team members have come back with a fresh idea and a new way of tackling the problem by spending some time not thinking about the problem in-front of them at all. Literally changing your environment and getting out of your routine can help bring forth new ideas. New questions may arise that didn’t even enter your mind previously.
Encourage Critical Thinking
Another way to inspire intuitive thinking with your team is to ask them to come up with a solution to every question or dilemma they bring to you. It’s the old adage of teaching them how to fish versus giving them a fish. As Daniel Caruana, CEO of Danrae Waterproofing states:
“I encourage others to not just seek the answer from others because that’s easier. But instead coach them to use their gut feel on how to carry out something or answer the question. Part of how I do that is not offering them the answer immediately. It’s important to ask more questions. When they continually ask questions and are not redirected back to themselves for the answer, it reinforces a lack of confidence. I want to help them learn how to trust their instincts.”
Sometimes giving an employee the answer is the smart thing to do and will save everyone time. Yet if this becomes the norm, employees don’t learn to think for themselves and develop critical thinking. A great manager is synonymous with a mentor and will help guide the employee to their own answers. It also doesn’t develop their leadership skills if they don’t learn how to grapple with a problem and become dependant on you for the answer. This kills intuition and intuitive thinking over time.
For example, let’s say an employee approaches you with questions about making an upcoming deadline and is uncertain of the next steps. You could simply give them the answer that you see. Or you could start asking questions that force them to do some critical thinking. Such as: “If I wasn’t here, what would you suggest?” or “If you were managing the department, what would you advise?” Or “I’m not sure. I want you to think on it and come up with a solution by the end of the day.” Each question gets them to step out of their normal reference point, for at least a moment. This may seem like the longer route, but in the bigger picture, you are teaching staff how to build strategic muscle and learning to discover and trust the answers within.
Lead Them Toward Their Inner Wisdom
This may seem overly simplified, but when you next find yourself in a creative, brainstorming meeting, ask them to trust their gut on a given project and to speak from their heart. If they get that this is a safe environment and that they won’t be judged for out-of-the-box thinking, you’ll start getting more contribution and engagement from your team right away. If you are not getting such engagement, chances are you are not creating a conducive space for collaboration and learning.
Whether you are in a one-to-one meeting or a group meeting, see what happens when you direct your team to look inside for the answers. You can prompt them with questions like, “What is your gut telling you about the right way to go?” or “What do you sense in your heart of hearts?” or “ I want everyone to take a moment and close their eyes, get out of your head for a second, and what comes to you when I say ______?” Or in other words, you can offer them a couple of different directions the company could go in this given situation, and see what type of inner feedback they have for you when they check-in with their intuitive centers. This may not be the end-all, be-all, but it’s at least another data point that helps get at possible solutions from another angle.
In conclusion, by asking questions, moving toward a state change and changing the reference point from the mind to a deeper instinct and intelligence inside your team, you are able to harness the inner wisdom and new approaches that can make all the difference that lead to your competitive advantage. The more we include all of ourselves in decision-making, the more likely we are to come up with the best solution possible. Test this out with your teams and let me know what you discover!