In our work as Management Consultants we need to help our clients take tough decisions and we need to take many decisions ourselves. But how do we that and what drives us in our decision making?
According to Wikipedia, “decision-making can be regarded as a problem-solving activity terminated by a solution deemed to be satisfactory. It is therefore a process which can be more or less rational or irrational and can be based on explicit or tacit knowledge.”
Examine most decision-making methods in business and you will find at their core rational and linear principles. At the same time, according to the article “Decoding Intuition for Effective Decision Making” in Harvard Business Review, when asked how they made their major decisions, experienced CEOs report based “on intuition” or “gut feel”. To be precise, “intuition was found to be a major determining factor in 85% of thirty-six major CEO decisions” studied.
I myself have taken my most profound and life-changing decisions as a corporate manager purely on intuition and sometimes against any logic. I have also made some of my biggest business mistakes by not following what I intuitively knew because I could not find “the rationale behind”. In some cases I would completely disregard my intuitive feeling, in others I felt so strongly that I communicated it during Board Meetings. The result was the same. I wasn’t listened to because I could not justify it. Worse, I did not listen to myself either for the very same reason. I’ve had more than a few cases like that and I still recall the major ones. Several years and much damage later, colleagues told me- “You were right then. I wish we listened.”
Today I know that intuition is one of the best decision-making tools we have and inspiration or purpose is the best guidance anyone possesses. In the times of volatility, uncertainty, change and ambiguity we live in, more and more people start tuning back into them.
As Management Consultants, we also need to tune into them because they often tell us profound truths that sometimes even the most sophisticated business models do not detect.
Values, Intuition and Inspiration in Decision Making
According to Richard Barrett of the Barrett Values Centre, “humans have developed six ways of decision-making: instincts, subconscious beliefs, conscious beliefs, values, intuition, and inspiration“.
The difference between the first three and the second three is vast. “Instincts are the principal mode of decision‐making found in all creatures. In adult life, instinct‐based decision‐making kicks in to help us survive and avoid dangerous situations.” Belief-based decision-making requires us to “make meaning of our world through our beliefs and most of these beliefs have to do with our personal and cultural upbringing“, or in other words, our past and our environment.
VALUE-BASED DECISIONS: The shift to value-based decision “involves examining these beliefs and letting go of the ones that don’t serve us. As we let go of these beliefs, we develop a new guidance system based on our deeply held values…When you shift to values‐based decision‐making, you can effectively throw away your rule books. Every decision you make is sourced by what is deeply meaningful to you. ”
INTUITION-BASED DECISIONS: “Intuition allows us to access our own deeper intelligence, and the collective intelligence of a wider group.” “Intuition is non‐directive. Intuition is an idea or insight that apparently arises from nowhere at any specific moment that provides a solution to a problem. Intuition can best be described as a “eureka” moment”.
INSPIRATION/PURPOSE-BASED DECISIONS: “Inspiration is always very personal and directive. It is about what you need to do. It is a persistent thought that will not go away or it is the next step you have to take… It will keep prompting you to take action until you do something about it. The purpose of inspiration is to support you in fulfilling your purpose. Inspiration “is best described as guidance for staying in a state of “flow”” or being purpose-driven.
Values, Intuition and Inspiration as Elements of Consultants’ Navigation System
As Management Consultants, we can look at values, intuition and inspiration as a navigation system that lead us in our work and allows us to take better decisions. In doing that, we ensure that the decisions we take are not driven by fears or our desire to survive, be liked and succeed; are not bias because of our personal, educational or cultural upbringing; are right for the people and the organizations we consult, the systems they are part of and society at large.
How do we do that? It does sounds like too much but once you get into the right mindset, it is easier than you might think. Here are some questions you could reflect upon:
- What are the top values that form your roots and how do they impact your work? What are the top values that form the roots of your client and how do they impact their work? How are the differences or similarities in values impacting the work you do together?
- What is your definition of success as a management consultant? Do you take a step back to consciously differentiate between your need to survive and succeed and what intuitively feels right for your client?
- Are you aware when your ego’s three strategies (being right; looking good; controlling and defending) are at play and how do you convert them to healthy practices?
- How can you let go of the need to control and be right and support yourself in a stand of ‘not knowing’ so that you can tune into what inspires your client and is intuitively right for them?
- What does your client have energy for? How does that differ from what you have energy for? How is that impacting your work together?
- How can you support yourself in the dynamic space between shaping the advice you give and listening in to the shape the organization of your client wants to take?
The list of questions can go on but what’s most important is that our continuous professional development is not focused only on rational knowledge and business models but also on deepening our awareness of what truly drives us in our decisions and how our decisions impact ourselves, the organizations we work for and society at large.