Trusting instincts in business decisions

When CIOs discuss the worst candidates they’ve ever hired for jobs, as they often do in’s Hiring Manager Interviews series, their hiring mistakes almost always come down to this: I didn’t trust my gut.

The CIO knows deep down that the candidate isn’t right for the position or the IT organization, ignores his instincts and hires the individual anyway. The hire ends up being a waste of time and money, confirming the CIO’s instinct on some level that it wouldn’t work out.

It is through this school of hard knocks that managers learn to trust their guts when it comes to hiring and other business and career decisions.

Tapping into that visceral reservoir known as intuition can be particularly difficult for IT professionals, whose analytical, logical minds are wired to rely on data to make decisions. But learning to harness one’s instincts and intuition helps individuals make better decisions in all areas of their lives, personal and professional, says Karol Ward, a psychotherapist and author of Find Your Inner Voice: Using Instinct and Intuition Through the Body-Mind Connection (Career Press 2009.)

“When people allow instinct and intuition to be part of their decision-making process, they experience less regret and feel less conflicted when they make important decisions,” says Ward.

Ward has observed first-hand the relief her therapy patients have experienced after listening to their instincts while in the throes of agonizing personal decisions.

“When people were sitting across from me, struggling with a decision, I could tell the moment they got clarity on it,” she says. “Their energy would change. Their faces would light up. Their shoulders would relax. …There’s a definite physical shift that arises when people arrive at a decision that’s right for them. When people make that body and mind connection, they have a better and more accurate way of making decisions.”

Before you dismiss this mind-body talk as new-age mumbo-jumbo, know that there is science behind it. Ward says the stomach is laden with nerve endings, and neurological pathways connect the brain and the gut. Your gut feelings are instincts that you haven’t yet articulated in your mind.

Ward spoke with about the reasons people discount their instincts and intuition and explained how to instead effectively tap into them. She also explained how to evaluate whether your sinking suspicion that you’re going to get laid off is real or a figment of your imagination.

CIO: Are you suggesting that people pay more attention to their instincts and intuition than what their minds tell them?

Karol Ward: I’m a big fan of the brain. I’m just about getting it in balance so our body weighs in on decisions more than it usually does. We tend to be very mind-heavy and logical, but sometimes our logic is skewed because we’ve learned things without thought. For instance, we’ve learned that certain factors make a good hire, yet when we don’t feel right about that person sitting in front of us with that wonderful r

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