In business, it is easy to find solid, tangible advice on most everything from how to create a high-converting website to the best ways to advertise and promote your business based on statistics and past practices. But what if your head is telling you that you should do one thing, yet your gut is telling you that you really need to do another—even though it isn’t telling you specifically why? What are you to do then? The best way to answer this question is to first understand what an instinct is.
Gut Instincts – What They Are
Although we generally refer to these gut instincts as “sixth senses,” it really doesn’t seem right to call them that as they aren’t just a feeling. In fact, as explained by Psychology Today in an article titled “Gut Almighty,” instincts are actually perceptions based on miniscule observances that our brain makes but does not immediately recognize. In other words, they happen due to concrete happenings, but without you necessarily understanding how.
For instance, if you are speaking to someone and ask them a question, your gut may tell you that their response was possibly a lie, even though you can’t put your finger on why you think that. You may not have readily picked up on it, but maybe their eyes quickly shifted up and to the left, breaking eye contact before answering, which is a known sign of deception (I learned this early on as a Reserve officer and it is still being shared on reputable police sites such as PoliceOne).
Essentially, your instinct was not to believe them, but everything happened so fast that you couldn’t rationalize as to why. Once I learned this small fact, I started to pay more attention to my own gut instincts and trusting them to keep me safe on the road. Now I use them to keep me safe in business.
So, what gut instincts can help make you a better businessperson? There are three main ones to consider.
Instincts Regarding Hiring Employees
How many times have you looked at a potential employee’s resume and cover letter and really disliked it, but couldn’t explain why? They may have similar qualifications to other applicants, yet there is something about them that drops them slightly behind other prospects, making you not want to consider hiring him or her?
This is one situation where following your gut may serve you better than relying on what is on the papers before you. This is especially true if your gut is telling you this after an oral interview, when you’ve had the chance to speak to a person face-to-face and still feel as if they aren’t the person for the job.
Alison Green, writer of the popular Ask a Manager blog and contributor to Manager Link via Monster.com, suggests that you give your gut more latitude when it comes to not hiring versus hiring. In other words, trust your gut to tell you when someone isn’t a good fit for your company, but only hire based on evidence. Additionally, don’t forget to consider whether your gut is leading you a certain direction based on knowledge and experience or if you aren’t qualified enough to formulate an educated opinion.
Instincts Regarding Potential Clients
How many times have you been approached by a potential client, only to really question whether or not to take the job? Maybe he or she was more than willing to abide by your contract specifications and requirements, yet there was something that made you want to walk away from the deal entirely, no matter how good it sounded?
This is probably more related to service-related companies than those that offer products, but it is important nonetheless. I know I’ve run into this situation before, which left me questioning whether I should take the project or not.
Initially, when I was new to writing, I almost always set my intuition aside and took the job for the additional income. And, to be totally honest, I cannot think of one time that my instincts were wrong. Ultimately, I ended up not liking the job, the client, or both, and regretted not listening to my innermost thoughts.
Now, I listen to my gut every time. Even if everything appears to be in line and in place, if I feel hesitant for any reason, I don’t take it. The end result is that I enjoy all of my clients and jobs, which makes me happier and, thus, more successful.
Instincts Regarding Growing and Expanding
Admittedly, this instinct is tough because sometimes fear can come into play, causing you to not act when you should or to act when you shouldn’t. But, if you can take fear out of the equation and you’re still not sure about growing and expanding your company, then you may need to take a closer look and see what is causing those feelings.
If you’re not sure whether to grow in size, ask colleagues or business associates their thoughts to see if they bring up any issues that may be at the recess of your mind but not in the forefront. Sometimes it helps just to talk these things over with someone else so that you can more easily identify why you are feeling the way you do.
For instance, I was offered a partnership on a magazine, which seems like a great way to grow and expand my writing career. However, something inside told me not to do it. Upon further examination, I discovered that my reservations had to do with the fact that my ultimate career goal deals more with speaking than writing, so I would be better suited to take that direction instead. Had I immediately jumped on the offer (and it was a good offer), I might have been miserable since I wasn’t following my dream.
In the end, the more trust you place in yourself to not steer you wrong, the happier you will likely be. What gut instincts have you followed that ended up being good for your business?