Gut Instincts In Crisis Decision Making

I recently reviewed a posting on a prominent web forum that gave the author's best take on the role of "feelings" in making decisions – especially during a crisis or urgency.   I agreed and did not agree with the posting as it relates to Crisis Management and Crisis Decisions.   Yes, feelings or more accurately described as "intuition" or "Gut Instincts" are part of crisis decisions – the posting dismissed this as not always an accurate method of making a decision.     Yes, but…I thought – and here I go.   I just have to say something here.     I know of many stories and recounts of how a person "sensed" something and made a decision on that intuition which may or may not have been consistent with the facts at hand nor the advice of others.   Why?   Here's my 2 cents on this subject:

  1. People instinctively know more than they consciously know that they know.   Our minds which are based on our brain function, are so much more complex and contain so much more than we are aware.   We know more than we know or of which we are aware. That knowledge comes from our experiences and our intuitive interpretation of our circumstances and we get a "sense" of what we should do.   Some people call this the gut instinct.   Many times this is developed from training.   Others say it is knowing the RIGHT THING TO DO which is also based on our conscience which is our moral compass as well as our personal values.  
  2. There is more to a situation than just "facts".   In fact, facts are only facts as long as the conditions remain constant.   Facts are different depending on who tells them, who sees them, who knows them and may or may not contain all the truth.   Because of our analytical abilities, we are, based on our experience and previous knowledge input, able to assemble and consider "facts".   Some of us do this "instinctively" without a conscious purpose that we are doing this.   It is what gives us a sense of awareness and may result in hesitation to take a specific path, spend financial or human capital, or move forward on a recommended decision.   Again, this is often called a "sense" which is our unconscious intellect that doesn't have an external source.   We are able to discern "facts" and make a decision based on our senses or "hunches".
  3. There is more to communication than the electronic information put before us.   We have become entrenched in electronic communication and filtered, digested, slanted and cultured reports and communication.   Which means that we "read between the lines" and, based on our mind set, we "interpret" information and communication.   So many times I hear leadership team members say to each other, "I was just thinking the same thing"; or "Yes, I just thought of that, too."   This is enhanced, in my experience, when you add video to audio – as in teleconferencing.   You are far more able to "see" what the other team members are thinking – I know that sounds weird, but non-verbal (visual) communication is often estimated at 80% of communication – and without consciously acknowledging that, we act on or make decisions on more than just verbal or written communication.   Some would call that instincts and it may well be, but it has an external origination that is processed internally.   We don’t just receive “Facts”, we interpret them and understand them in context.   This process can be called “gut instinct” and it can also be a “group experience” for a leadership team.
  4. There is a spiritual factor to people who have a faith oriented mindset in which they are sensitive to a response (answer) to their prayer and/or sudden creative thoughts about the situation.   Some people have dreams and others experience daydreams or visions and these people trust this form of "instinct" as divine inspiration and guidance.   In one case with a faith-based international relief and response organization, I was training the leadership team in crisis management and asked, " So, based on this situation (we were conducting a table top exercise), what is the first step of the Crisis Management Team?"   I, of course, was teaching process and I was expecting a response that started out with Number 1 on our checklist/team agenda.   What I got back was a unanimous response that , "We pray."   I will report that this team was more comfortable with each other, employed a more cohesive and mutually respectful process with each other, and more quickly arrived at a decision on the situation and when they arrived at a decision, they all agreed that it was the right thing to do.   I was very impressed with their maturity and faith or trust in divine guidance and their trust of each other.   I don't teach this in my trainings, but I would encourage anyone in a faith-based organization to rely on this.
  5. The final comment I have is that there is more to every individual's capability than they realize, and many times, this capability becomes manifest during a crisis situation.   This is what most people think of as leadership and maybe that is what this is.   Most people not only do the right thing, they do it better than their previous best and most of us don't' either know that we can or could say with confidence that we could.   The best way to do the best we can and make the best decision we can when we don't have enough time, information or resources, is to prepare to do so.   That is why we have crisis management plans and do the pre-training to prepare ourselves.   Even with that, which pushes up to a higher level of capability, we can go upward and beyond depending on the situation.   There are so many testimonies of people who not only evacuated dangerous situations (like the World Trade Center), but also helped others and made immediate important life-saving decisions at the time.   This is in you – in all of us.   Maybe it is gut instinct, but I think it is also the best of you coming out when it is needed.

Crisis Leadership is doing the right thing at the right time and being your best during the worst.   In order to do that, you need to be prepared.   Have a plan and know what to do – that's the best place to start off during a crisis.

Jan Decker, Crisis Management Consulting 253 ·261 ·2704

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