Intuition becomes especially critical as we lead our teams through difficult, complex times.
What looks like distraction or over-analysis may well be anxiety or even depression. What seems like intense focus and discipline on certain results might be an overcompensation for a weakness or even emotional trauma. Can you sense when you need to take a closer look?
If you want to build your intuition as a leader, it’s a muscle like any other—you must consciously build it. And the most important step is to develop a complex understanding of your team members as whole people. This aspect of leadership has changed drastically over the past several years and continues to evolve. For many of us, we’ve mastered Excel, Outlook, our CRM, and other technologies. We’ve mastered how to operate in our particular cultures and organizational politics. We’ve even mastered Zoom, Teams, and Skype (well, most of us have). But ask yourself—do you have a mastery of truly knowing your team, of who they are and what they need, beyond a surface-level understanding?
If you’re a formal leader, how well do you know your team members? Where they grew up? Their passions and fears? Their preference for how to be recognized, praised, or given redirecting feedback? Do you know what they want for their careers—and as importantly, what they don’t? Do you deeply understand what motivates each of them? What scares them? What drives and cripples them?
If we truly want people to “bring their whole selves to work,” we need to make it safe for them to do so, creating a culture where they can talk about what’s on their minds without retribution. How can you develop such a significant level of psychological safety? Start with yourself.
Become comfortable with what drives and limits you, what cripples or intimidates you. And then share it with your team. Open. Honestly and vulnerably.
Make it culturally safe for others to do the same. The setting, frequency and timing are all vital, but when you begin to serve as an example, a model of what’s safe and encouraged, you’ll naturally see others follow suit. You’ll develop a more nuanced understanding of what’s really going on—and when people, challenges, or situations are more complicated than they appear.