Trust Your Inner Sherlock Holmes

For those of you who have been reading my blogs for any length of time, you know I am a fan of the arts and am often inspired by what I see or hear. Today my inspiration is Sherlock Holmes. I am an avid fan of both of the current TV programs featuring this classic sleuth, “Elementary” and “Sherlock;” however my current inspiration was a play I saw recently entitled “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure.”

What inspires me about Sherlock Holmes? He is certainly clever and witty, both traits I admire. What stands out to me most, though, is a skill we all have, but one we don’t always use or trust – intuition. Sherlock trusts his intuition. While he absolutely spends time pondering a situation and is a keen observer of everything going on around him, ultimately Sherlock trusts his intuition to guide him.

Intuition is not a skill we often talk about.  I’m not sure that it is always valued in the workplace.  Yet, how many times have you said “I had a feeling about that” or “I knew that was going to happen.”? That’s intuition. In the Wikipedia description, “the word intuition comes from Latin verb intueri which is usually translated as to look inside or to contemplate. Intuition is thus often conceived as a kind of inner perception, sometimes regarded as real lucidity or understanding.” Science tells us that our brain operates on two tracks – one more conscious, the other unconscious. In other words, we “know more than we know we know”.

If this “inner perception” is real, how can we use it effectively? In a project review meeting with a team member you might find it useful. Perhaps this team member walks in your office and is fidgeting in his chair and won’t look at you while describing his progress. The project may not be going as well as he is describing or perhaps he has just heard some disturbing news. Use your gut and investigate what is behind his less than focused attention. You might say something like this: “I sense that your mind is not totally on the project we’re discussing. Is the project not going as well as you had hoped or is something else going on?” By putting words to your intuition in the form of a question, you give the other person permission to say yes or no or to provide another explanation.

In another scenario, you may be in a meeting with other leaders discussing organizational plans for the upcoming year. Based on what you’ve heard through the grapevine and seen when you visited a competitor, your gut tells you that there may be an opportunity for your company to steal some market share from this competitor. Say so. Don’t worry that you don’t have proof or that your idea may not become part of the plan when it is considered by the rest of the team. It absolutely won’t be considered if you don’t communicate it. You could actually be on to something!

While using our conscious, thoughtful mind to analyze and observe is critical to our effectiveness, our less conscious sense of a situation should not be ignored. Our intuition may provide insights that can positively impact a person, a problem, or a decision and can be used effectively anytime our inner Sherlock Holmes senses that something is afoot.

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