The Power of Intuition

I recently was talking to a CEO who asked me what I thought the most important skill was that a quality HR professional brings to the table – great question and certainly one that I am sure would have many different answers.  For me, though, the answer is clear….INTUITION.  The hard thing about intuition is that it is a skill everyone has, but one that is rarely trusted.  We all have our gut feelings, we all “knew something was going on” but we don’t often give homage to that sensation.  Yet, to be really exceptional at HR, you have to trust your gut.  

In a previous blog, I wrote about how intuition played into an Employee Relations issue that showed itself with a can of tuna fish.  Well, perhaps not as dramaticly, that tuna fish plays itself out all the time with HR professionals.  Here are just a few ways:

*You have a “feeling” about a candidate – either good or bad – and you find it difficult to justify looking just at a resume.  I remember when I was a recruiter for a company – I was trying to fill a high paying VP role and the executives had a very precise vision of who the ideal candidate would be – years of experience, glowing resume, proven abilities.  I brought in lots of candidates that fit the bill but just didn’t seem to fit the company and then I took a gamble and brought in a 24 year old new college graduate.  My Intuition told me she was the one though I could not put in words why.  After my begging with the executives to at least talk with her, and after 15 interviews, they finally hired her.  Ten years later, she is now the COO.

*You sense that something is “off” about an employee who has come into your office.  This is definitely a feeling to heed.  I remember one employee coming into my office for the first time.  Hard to determine if he was “off” since I had never had a chance to benchmark his behavior but something didn’t sit right with me.  After 5 minutes of pleasantries, he spent the next hour ranting about how the company was involved in a conspiracy to short change its customers.  After security responded to my silent buzzer, he was escorted from my office and shortly after was admitted for a psych eval.

You know when you are not getting the full story.  One of the challenges in HR is that we are often brought into “segments” of a business decision or move.  A fine tuned HR Professional will use their intuition, combined with their experience, to piece together all the moving parts and effectively make recommendations from the HR angle.  If you don’t trust your intuition – or your experience – you will stay with just a piece of the story.

Hidden agendas.  I remember once sitting at a table with heavy hitters.  As a former psychologist, I often find myself sitting back and observing group dynamics and there is no better group for this then CEO’s and top executives of companies.  As I was watching all the bickering going back and forth I noticed one leader sitting back and watching, inserting key words every once in a while to seemingly infuriate one side or the other.  That same leader became the CEO of a massive company – and the two who were bickering were released from their jobs.  His whole agenda was to pit them against each other so he could assume power.  As I watched him that day, I had both an intuition that he was up to something…and also an intuition to steer clear.

So again, I think that without trusting our intuition, HR Professionals only get a piece of the puzzle, only hear the surface story, and only recruit to model.  We should never be professionals who go by a script, by rather by our guts.