Gut Instinct, and How Leaders Use It

The e-mail read:

Can a job applicant alter their personality style profile to influence the results so that their style appears to be more like the style we’re looking for to fill this position?

The rest of the story: 

This small company hires customer reps who must be creative, friendly, but also detail-oriented. The company has determined that a specific personality profile is a good “fit” for the position.  The interviewer who sent this e-mail to me was concerned because the results of a particular job candidate’s personality style survey indicated she was a good match. However, the interviewer had misgivings, or a gut instinct that something was not quite right, perhaps the person completing the survey didn’t answer the questions honestly. That led to this e-mail.

What do you do in a situation like this?

Trust your gut.

Gut instinct is not from your gut, and it’s not instinct.

It is your brain, working efficiently, warning you to beware of danger or to take the shortcut to a best decision without wasting a lot of calories on providing the full picture.  Gut instinct is like a summary, cliff notes, or a postage stamp-sized picture of something far larger. Gut instinct means your brain has spotted something that reminded it of a previous experience.  Since the brain’s job is to keep you alive it is using gut instinct as a message from your mid-brain that is trying to tell you,

“Something just happened that is very similar to an event you experienced in your past. I’m not going to waste the time or energy to pull up the entire file, but I want you to pay attention to what is happening right now. I’m just looking out after you.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Sincerely

                                                                                                                   —Your Brain

The brain uses feelings of discomfort, uneasiness or questioning as speed bumps to slow us down and give a situation more thought. Our feelings serve a purpose. They are gauges, indicators, warning signals that something is not right, or alternatively, that you should move ahead.

Emotional Intelligence (or emotional literacy) begins with self-awareness.  When I tune in to my feelings of discomfort or familiarity and use that information to inform my course of action, I’m putting emotional intelligence (emotional literacy) to work. The extent to which we exercise emotional intelligence is a predictor of our success in life.

So, trust your gut instincts.  They are actually the workings of your incredible brain.  When you experience a gut instinct, stop. Focus on the feeling. Ask yourself, “What in my past does this remind me of?”  Or, “How old do I feel when I think of this?”  Then when you come up with an age, ask yourself, “What negative experiences did I have at this age?” If there is one that comes to mind, take some time to examine it and the lessons you learned from the outcome.

Then try to figure out what is happening right now that your brain is trying to get you to pay attention to.

The Emotionally Intelligent or Emotionally Literate Leader understands that gut instincts are to be observed and considered and are a crucial part of decision making and problem solving.

So if you find yourself in a situation where the facts say one thing but your instinct is shouting, “No, don’t do that!” Then honor your instinct and let it be part of the equation.


Tim Hast provides executive coaching, training, facilitation and strategic planning.  He is an Authorized Everything DiSC Partner and a Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team Authorized Partner as well.  Tim is part of the organizational training and development team at Encore Life Skills LLC in Edmond, Oklahoma.

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By | 2017-12-18T04:24:50+00:00 December 18th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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