Researchers at Northeastern University conducted an experiment that involved subjects flipping a coin to see which of two tasks they would be asked to perform. One was short and enjoyable. The other one took longer and was more tedious.
Guess what percentage answered honestly when asked which side of the coin they got? Only10 percent. Others didn’t bother flipping the coin at all or just kept flipping it until they got the side with the easy task.
That’s just one study of many studies that researchers have been conducting to understand business ethics and why people behave the way they do. The sad reality is that while many of us still value integrity and dealing with people honestly, we can’t always count on co-workers or others we are conducting business with to behave in an honest fashion.
That’s why it’s even more important than ever to trust your gut in business dealings. You know that feeling — when something is just off and doesn’t add up.
Maybe you’ve been presented with a proposal for your business and while all the numbers and testimonials about the new service seem legit, something about it just doesn’t feel right.
Or your sales manager is offering an explanation for why his salespeople aren’t meeting quotas. You listen to what he’s saying, and while it sounds plausible, your intuition is telling you something is off.
We are most likely unconsciously calling up past bits of information that together have led us to that conclusion.
Our brains are wired to retain these bits of information and link patterns into clusters of knowledge. I learned a new term for this process of gathering information into meaningful groups. In psychology it’s known as “chunking,” a term coined by the late social scientist Herbert Simon PhD.
“When you see a tiny detail of a familiar design, you instantly recognize the larger composition—and that’s what we regard as a flash of intuition,” according to the article “When to Listen to Your Gut … and When Not To.”
When you can’t really put your finger on why something doesn’t seem right, that’s your gut talking to you. And that’s something you need to pay attention to.
As Mario Cuomo said, “Every time I’ve done something that doesn’t feel right, it’s ended up not being right.”
Over my 30 plus years in my career as a turnaround authority, trusting my gut has worked to my advantage in so many situations. Sometimes it’s when I meet with prospective clients and I can tell they aren’t really committed to making the changes that will be necessary to meet the desired goals. If I worked with them, we’d both end up frustrated.
I also trust my gut when I sense there will be a personality conflict with someone and again, we won’t be able to meet our goals if we don’t have a smooth working relationship. Although I generally get along with everyone, every now and then I sense that won’t be the case.
I also have a fairly good sense of when someone is lying to me. My job involves talking and listening to a large number of people, at all levels of a company. It doesn’t matter what their position is at the business, I can often tell if they are lying to me or just not telling me the whole truth.
While we often can’t explain our intuition or instinct, we know it to be a powerful thing. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Trust instinct to the end, even though you can give no reason.”