What Kind of Intuition Do You Have?

Financial reports, pie charts, spreadsheets — all the numbers in the world will only tell you so much. Like me, turns out a majority of people rely on their gut instincts when making a decision.

A survey done by The International Association of Administrative Professionals and OfficeTeam of 1,300 senior managers and 3,500 administrative professionals found that a whopping 88 percent of them make decisions based on gut feelings.

I’ve written before about the value of trusting my gut. I have found that if I make a decision that goes against what my gut tells me to do, 99 percent of the time it turns out badly.

I trust in my gut to connect the dots in the future, as Steve Jobs referred to it, because, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” As he said, “This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

It seems the higher up the corporate ladder you are, the more important your gut instincts can be, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review, When to Trust Your Gut.

“Over the years, various management studies have found that executives routinely rely on their intuitions to solve complex problems when logical methods (such as a cost-benefit analysis) simply won’t do. In fact, the consensus is that the higher up on the corporate ladder people climb, the more they’ll need well-honed business instincts. In other words, intuition is one of the X factors separating the men from the boys.”

It can be helpful to understand what type of intuition you generally rely on. If you know which skills serve you best, you can hone them and bring them to the forefront when faced with a big decision.

So what type are you? There’s a quiz for that, developed by OfficeTeam, an international staffing service. Take the 10-question quiz, What’s Your Intuition Style? to find out.

The five possible types, according to the quiz are:

  • Adapter. With this type of intuition you have the ability to use multiple strategies, including asking a lot of questions, observing people’s behavior and researching the situation. Don’t take it personally when your own needs are overlooked and let others know what you need.
  • Analyst. You are good at digging up facts, doing research and coming up with logical and well-reasoned insights. Use those skills combined with instinctive abilities when making decisions.
  • Empathizer. While you are good at anticipating other’s needs and identifying with their problems, be careful not to rely too much on emotion when making decisions. Remember the value of research and analysis.
  • Observer. This type of intuition relies heavily on visual cues based on other’s demeanor. Be sure to make sure you engage them in conversation as well to better anticipate the needs of others.
  • Questioner. Rather than rely on assumptions you ask the parties involved directly and you are good at getting people to talk. Learn to rely more on your observational skills to find out what people aren’t telling you.

This type of quiz can be fun and informative, but remember that it’s called gut instinct for a reason. We will never fully understand human instincts but knowing when they can be helpful can make the difference in your career.

Job Burnout: Tips for Treating It

This column concludes a three-part series on dealing with job burnout. In the first post, ”Dealing with Job Burnout,” we provided resources for you to determine if you are experiencing job burnout. Part two covered the causes of burnout, and part three offers some solutions for job burnout.

 The stories in last column, “Causes of Job Burnout” may have scared you a bit. Heart attacks and suicidal tendencies should not be part of your career. And the statistic that job burnout is associated with a 79 percent increased risk of heart disease is a sobering one. The reality is that job burnout can be extremely dangerous. So what can you do about it?

To address many of the causes of burnout, you just need to get rid of stress, right? Not exactly. In addition to being a completely unrealistic goal, a certain amount of stress is a good thing. It can spur you on to greater achievement; it can be a powerful force to drive you to accomplish great things.

The best way to deal with job burnout is to recognize when it’s approaching and take time for a break. Head it off at the pass. If you began to feel some of the symptoms I mentioned in part one of this series, such as trouble sleeping, feeling disillusioned, increased irritability, take action to give yourself a break. If taking a few vacation days is not possible, at least take off an afternoon and engage in an activity that relaxes you.

I deal with a stress every day with my clients and their complicated stressful issues. However, I get up each morning with a smile and anxious to go to work. I cycle 50 or so miles and workout in a gym for several hours a week to break the stress cycle. We each need to find what works. Yoga, hiking or long beach walks might work for you.

You can also explore new ways of clearing your mind. News broadcaster Dan Harris was filling in on “Good Morning America” when he suffered a major panic attack on air. As he says of the most embarrassing day of his life, “I freaked out in front of five million people.”

Initially a total skeptic, he tried meditation. He had such success with it, he wrote a book about it, “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works—A True Story.”

Here are two other tips from Harvard Business Review from the article “Three Ways to Beat Burnout.”

  • Manage Your Work. Some things to try include delegating, prioritizing better and getting more resources to handle your job. Maybe you say yes too often, and need to let others handle some of your responsibilities.
  • Do the “Right Work.” Burnout is sometimes not about how much work you have, but the type of work you are doing. If your work is just not fulfilling for you, tips for managing your time or reducing stress aren’t going to work.

Sometimes the only answer for job burnout is to switch jobs. Or careers. If you are suffering from job burnout because you are unfulfilled, bored, under-challenged or in a job that just isn’t a good fit for you and you are unable to change the situation at your current company, it’s time to start looking.

Just remember to take the lessons you learned from the causes of your job burnout and make sure the situation at your new company will be different. For example, if you suffered from job burnout because there was limited upward mobility or your values weren’t in line with those of your company, gather as much information as possible on the new employer in those areas.

The main thing to remember about job burnout is that it can be a serious condition. So don’t ignore it — deal with it.

When Your Employees Hate Their Job

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” Confucius said. Unfortunately, a majority of workers have no love for their jobs, and 18 percent worldwide describe themselves as “actively disengaged,” according to a recent Gallup survey of 5.4 million working adults.

In the United States, 30 percent claim to be engaged at work, higher than many countries, particularly New Zealand, where 62 percent describe themselves at not engaged at work.

But let’s not congratulate ourselves. That means that 70 percent of our workers describe themselves as non-engaged or actively disengaged. In their article, “Half Your Employees Hate Their Job,” Tom Gardner and Morgan Housel used an excellent analogy to describe the situation.

“Imagine a 10-person bicycle. This means that three people are pedaling, five are pretending to pedal, and two are jamming the brakes. That’s you, corporate America.”

Other troubling results came from a survey done by Bain & Associates Company with Netsurvey, which analyzed responses from 200,000 employees in 60 countries and found the following:

• Engagement scores decline as employee tenure increases. Employees with the deepest knowledge of the company, and the most experience, typically are the least engaged.

• Scores decline at the lowest levels of the organization, suggesting that senior executive teams likely underestimate the discontent on the front lines.

• Engagement levels are lowest in sales and service functions, where most interactions with customers occur.

No good news there, right? But there are things you can do to engage your employees, which leads to better morale and increased productivity.

In an article in Harvard Business Review, “The Four Secrets to Employee Engagement,” Rob Markey has suggestions that include have the supervisors lead the engagement efforts, train them on how to talk candidly with their employees and have them conduct short, frequent and anonymous line surveys to stay in touch with how things are going.

Supervisors should also ask employees on the front line how they can improve service to customers. “The companies that regularly earn high employee engagement tap that knowledge by asking employees how the company can earn more of their customers’ business and build the ranks of customer promoters,” Markey wrote.  “And they don’t just ask; they also listen hard to the answers, take action, and let their employees know about it.”

Housel and Gardner, who is also co-founder of The Motley Fool, had suggestions that include letting go of vacation and sick pay policies. Make your office someplace people would actually like to spend time — have meditation classes, install treadmill desks, let them go on Facebook and ESPN at work without feeling like they are cheating.

One intriguing suggestion they had is to let employees write their own job descriptions. The company learns where the passions of its employees are and if possible, can incorporate some of what they want to be doing to what they are actually doing.

Isn’t it worth the effort to get more people pedaling on your team? Your company needs to do whatever it can to get those people who are jamming the brakes or just pretending to pedal to start contributing to the group effort.

In my next column, I’ll write about some companies that have taken even more radical steps to make sure they have a more engaged work force. And I’ll share with you my top tips to engage your employees.


Testing Just One Part of Hiring Process

I’ve taken a few personality tests. One was on how I negotiate and I thought the results didn’t really reflect how I go through that process. But everyone else thought the test had totally pegged me. When I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator it pretty much nailed my personality.

I thought about these tests when I read a discussion on www.wsj.com on the percentage of companies that use some sort of tests during the hiring process. Nearly 20 percent of employers use personality tests in the hiring or promotion process, according to a survey done in 2011 by the Society for Human Resource Management of 495 human resource managers.

When you get to hiring for and promoting into top positions, the amount of testing and assessments of candidates understandably goes way up. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “Employers Put Executive Job Candidates to the Test,” 72 percent of the 516 companies polled used assessments to make decisions on promoting executives, more than double three years ago.

These assessments can include psychological interviews, role-playing and simulations. For example, candidates may be told to pretend they are dealing with a frustrated customer who starts yelling at them.

Not surprisingly, Google has identified the qualities and skills it desires in people who fill their top positions and has created an algorithm to predict each candidate’s success.

While I do think these tests have some validity, I believe they should be treated as just one indicator of whether a person can handle a high-level position. Testing should be just part of the process.

A key part of the process for me is just spending time with the person and getting to know him or her. After being in the turnaround business for more than 30 years, I’ve done a lot of hiring and firing. Luckily, one of the skills I’ve developed along the way is the ability to read people, a skill that is useful in just about every area of life.

It’s a skill that the legendary coach Bear Bryant had, according to people who worked with him. Bruce Arians, the Cardinals head coach, was his assistant for two years and called him “a master of personnel, of people.” It’s undoubtedly one of the skills that helped him win 323 games as coach of the University of Alabama football team.

(I also adhere to one of his hiring policies. “I don’t hire anybody not brighter than I am,” he said. “If they’re not smarter than me, I don’t need them.”)

If you want to improve your ability to read people and learn more about them than what they are telling you, here are a few questions to ask from an article by Anthony K. Tjan on the Harvard Business Review blog, “Becoming a Better Judge of People.”

• How does this person treat someone he doesn’t know? If you meet in an office, how did he treat the receptionist? If you go out to a meal, is she polite to the waiter?

• Does the person feel authentic? Did your BS detector go off at any time? Are they trying too hard?

• Is this person an energy-giver or taker? We’ve all known people that give off a negative energy. Does this person have a positive view of the word or tend to react negatively?

And one of the most important questions to consider: Is this person self-aware? A good understanding of your strengths and weaknesses is key to being a good leader.

Testing candidates can tell you a lot about their qualities, skills and values. But spending time with them and observing how they behave can tell you even more.