Some simply call it "instinct" or "gut feeling," and it often defies reason and logic, but it can be your most critical business tool to point you in the right direction when all else fails.
The world of business is undergoing radical transformation. With the explosion of technology, a new world economy, and a mass exodus of talent from employment to entrepreneurship, the rules and tools of business have dramatically changed, making leadership an expedition into uncharted and often choppy waters. It is now, more than ever, the survival of the fittest.
Fortunately, there is one ageless faculty a CEO and every leader can draw on in such an unpredictable era to guide him or her to successful business leadership and success ... intuition.
Some call it "instinct." Others know it as the "gut feeling," or a "hunch." Emerson called it "the divine impulse." I call it "vibes." Whatever you call it, we all recognize it as the deep, bone-marrow kind of knowing that transcends reason and logic, defies understanding, and yet undeniably points us in the right direction when all else fails.
Most CEOs know what intuition is and have experienced it. They agree that it is an invaluable tool for success in the modern world. But few know how it works, and fewer still know that there are things you can do to activate and accelerate it to work when you need it.
For starters, intuition works best off a solid foundation of knowledge. How knowledgeable are you about your business? As the leader in your organization, how well informed are you about your company’s affairs? And by informed, I do not mean simply having an awareness of paper facts. Real knowledge is far more than information; it’s derived from having direct experience with your employees and clients in the trenches. When did you last visit the engine rooms of your company, or observed the day-to-day world of your managers and workers? Do you even know who your workers are and how they are performing? Are you keeping your knowledge of the company current and sharp by refreshing your direct experience on a regular basis?
Secondly, intuition is driven by enthusiasm. It is a byproduct of an intense desire to make what you care about even better. Are you passionate about your business? Or has your focus deteriorated to just meeting the bottom line? If you’ve lost a genuine love for your job, then intuition will be overcome by cynicism and fear, causing your company to lead you, rather than your leading the company.
Next, intuition requires a clear and organized mind. It is a subtle and fleeting insight that can be easily lost under a mountain of unfinished business, or swept away in the drama of disorder. Is it time to catch up with old matters, finish unfinished business, and clear your desk? The more you procrastinate, the greater your loss when it comes to tapping into your intuitive reserves.
Finally, intuition is your sixth sense and it’s as physical as your five senses. Your intuition depends on your physical body to relay messages as if it were a radio broadcasting to your mind through your gut feelings. This means that if you are hung over, stressed out, under-exercised, sleep-deprived, overscheduled, or preoccupied, chances are you will miss the subtle calling cards of your intuition. You can pick up the intuitive broadcast only if the radio (your body) is working. Intuition also slips into our awareness when our mind has quiet moments. If you rush through each day like a firefighter on a drill, you will feel very little of anything, let alone the subtle vibrations coming from your intuitive channel. To discern the subtle takes time. Slow down; give yourself a break. Some of the greatest inventions and visions were born in a moment of doing nothing. Doing nothing doesn’t mean nothing is being done. On the contrary, giving yourself a little breathing space allows your higher awareness to kick in and offer its input.
To activate your intuition, you must calm your other senses as well. Delegate. Meditate. Take a walk. Do whatever it takes to eliminate distractions and create a window of intuitive opportunity. Conrad Hilton used to sit quietly until intuition kicked in. Benjamin Franklin flew a kite. Isaac Newton meditated under an apple tree. Find your quiet corner for inspiration. Expect intuition to show up. And it will!
The dictionary defines intuition as "immediate cognition," which requires a paying of acute attention. Get into the habit of listening to your intuition — your "inner teacher" — and expecting it to guide you. When you expect something, you create an energetic vacuum that the Universe seeks to fill. A case in point is two guys driving into town: One expects to find a parking space; the other doesn't. They both turn out right.
Intuition works off the creative part of your brain. Mix your routines up a bit to keep your attention fresh and to avoid falling into a mental rut. Take a new route to work. Enter through a different door. Wear a color you don’t normally wear. Cut lunchtime in half and take a walk.
Intuitive people don’t dwell on problems. They ponder offbeat solutions and expect to find them. In fact, they consider this a creative sport and love playing it. They work their intuitive muscles to enter a superconscious state of mind.
Above all, have the courage to follow your intuition. Every great leader has been willing to play the fool. Disney was considered a nut. The Wright brothers were called daft. Edison was "eccentric," at best. Progressive thinkers have always challenged conventional wisdom as they blazed a trail to the top.
Here are 10 things you can do to activate your intuition in your business world.
1. Write down your professional goals. Intuition supports clear intentions. Keep your goals clearly posted and review them every day.
2. Visualize your success. Imagine exactly what you want to happen in your business. Intuition supports your vision. Sharpen your visualization skills by sharing your vision with others and observe if they can see your dreams as well as you.
3. Get enough sleep. Intuition shuts down when you are fatigued.
4. Keep a little notebook or tape recorder and record your gut feelings, aha moments, and bright ideas as they arise. Do not edit, censor, or dismiss anything. You will soon see it all counts.
5. Sound it out. Find sympathetic friends who will listen to your intuitive hunches. Sharing a gut feeling is the best way to validate your intuition and gain confidence in listening to your higher awareness.
6. Take time out for reflection. Intuition lies just beneath our conscious awareness and rises to the surface during quiet moments. Rushing through the day prevents your inner voice from speaking out. Schedule regular periods of five to 10 minutes throughout the week to do nothing but sit and ponder.
7. Leave the job at your desk. Sometimes the best way to activate your intuitive and creative muscles is to walk away from a problem and let the answers incubate on their own. Do something stimulating and fun on your evenings and weekends. Allowing this side of your brain to take over while giving your work side a rest brings new perspectives and ideas that can take you to a new level of solution.
8. Ask for help. Have the wisdom to be open to receiving help in all ways, and do not hesitate to seek guidance the minute you need it. Being open to guidance is the starting gun to an intuitive life and separates the ordinary from the extraordinary in today’s working world.
9. Keep your office clean and organized. Intuition thrives on order, not chaos. A clear desk leaves the clear mind needed for tuning in to your vibes.
10. Acknowledge your intuitive successes openly and comfortably. Share your vibes positively, regarding them as a natural asset designed to help you succeed and not as something to wrestle with or question. Recognize that they are a reflection of your higher abilities, and put them to use every day. The bottom line is if you want to succeed in a changing world of business and have a great time along the way, utilize and trust to the fullest your greatest natural business tool — your vibes.