The Coach's Corner

Do you trust your gut?

The Coach’s Corner Newsletter #43

One of my brothers recently shared that the biggest thing he’s learned about himself is using his accumulated wisdom to trust his gut. After years of dismissing intuition as unreliable, he’s adopted a policy to listen to what his gut is telling him before he makes small and large decisions.

As a highly sensitive writer and coach I, too, lean heavily on my intuition to guide me in tough situations several times a day.

What I didn’t realize is how much science backs up this connection between your gut and your brain.

Your brain talks to your gut, and your gut talks back. If you’ve ever had a “gut feeling,” you’ve experienced this communication. It’s how the thought of an exciting event can make you feel “butterflies in your stomach,” while the thought of something dreadful might be “gut-wrenching.” And it’s how the feeling in your gut can influence your decision-making, as in “going with your gut”.

That’s from the Cleveland Clinic.

Researchers have found that more information passes between your brain and your gut than any other body system.

Melody Wilding, writing in the Harvard Business Review, finds that

Leaders who identify as highly sensitive have stronger gut feelings than most, but have also been discouraged from using this sensory data. The good news is that intuition is like a muscle, it can be strengthened with intentional practice.

So what can you do to increase this gut-brain connection in the decisions you make as a leader in your org and throughout your life?


Do you trust your gut?

Gillian has been managing a team of creative directors and for the past few weeks she’s been interviewing dozens of candidates for a senior analyst position.

When we spoke, she shared that she had a dilemma that she couldn’t shake.

After all the one on one interviews, demos and a panel interview, we’re now down to three very strong candidates. I selected my top choice based on his strengths, his experience and input from follow-up discussions with the team and folks he’d be working with. And it just felt right. But my manager wants one of the other finalists. When I disagreed, she asked me to think about it before making the offer saying she believes the person she wants is a stronger long-term fit.

We sat with this dilemma in silence and I asked her what was coming up for her now that she’s given voice to her thoughts.

My gut? I believe she’s making a bad decision. Throughout the process I created a list of factors each person had to demonstrate for this role, and the candidate I support matches all of those factors. The one my manager wants falls short.

Then she explained that she hadn’t shared this list with her manager. We talked about how she might share her findings more clearly and why her candidate is such a strong fit. And then wait for her manager’s response.

This morning I got an email from Gillian.

I have great news! I got to hire the person I wanted. I shared my list and the reasons hiring this candidate are aligned with all that our team espouses. My manager was in full agreement. I went with my gut instinct and it worked! Thanks for your support.



Leveraging your intuition at work

In Melody Wilding’s Harvard Business Review article, she offers four ways to “leverage your intuition as a helpful decision-making tool in your career.”

Discern gut feeling from fear.

Fear tends to be accompanied by bodily sensations of constricting or minimizing. Fear has a pushing energy, as if you’re trying to force something, or selecting an option because you want to avoid a threat, rejection, or punishment. Intuition on the other hand has pulling energy, as if your choice is moving you toward your best interest, even if that means pursuing a risk or moving more slowly than others. With intuition, your inner voice is more grounded and wise, like a good mentor.

Start by making minor decisions.

Choose an outfit that calls to you without weighing too many variables. Raise your hand and speak up in a meeting without censoring yourself. Taking quick, decisive actions with small consequences gets you comfortable using your intuition. This approach is effective because it builds your ability to emotionally regulate in the face of discomfort.

Try the snap judgment test.

Relying on rapid cognition can allow your brain to make decisions without overthinking and help strengthen your trust in your gut. Give this a try with the “snap judgment test.” On a piece of paper, write a question such as, “will taking the promotion make me happy?” List yes or no below the question. Leave a pen nearby. After a few hours, come back to the paper and immediately circle your answer. It might not be an answer you like, especially if the question is a big one, but there’s a good chance that you forced yourself to respond honestly.

Fall back on your values.

Your core values represent what’s most important to you. Examples include freedom, diversity, stability, family, or calmness. Take a moment to reflect on what your top one to three values may be. The next time you find yourself struggling to make a decision, ask yourself, “which action or decision brings you closer to those core values?” Going within can help dissolve the internal tension that leads to mental loops.

My takeaway

When I sit down to write, I often get a sense of nervous excitement emanating from my gut. And then I remind myself this is what I know, a clear gut-brain connection.

If I’m walking my dog late at night, I’m listening for footsteps or watching for fast moving cars, acutely aware of my surroundings. That’s a gut-brain warning, keeping me alert.

Taking an exam for a certification that adds to my expertise, I often find myself relying on the first answer that I resonate with in the moment. That’s my gut reminding my brain that I know what to do.

Do I blindly trust my gut?

Do I add up my intuition and accumulated wisdom?

Do I somehow just know?

Most of the times it’s all of the above.

Making decisions in work and in life typically involves a whole slew of factors. I do my best to incorporate several of them, check in with my husband and close friends and arrive at a choice that I believe is sound.

Or…I rely on intuition. Do

I believe in intuition and inspiration. At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason.

Albert Einstein

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