I tried to poison my husband on Friday.

Not on purpose, obviously, but accidentally from my forest foraging for mushrooms on my Friday day off.  I was really excited about the natural bounty I’d gathered under the watchful eye of my friend.  However, something went wrong between the picking and the cooking which contributed to giving him a very bad reaction at 4 am in the morning, which trust me was not pleasant for the next hour or so.  And if I’m honest, also resulted in a bit of a funny tummy for myself as well.

The point is (and it’s not, don’t trust me and my foraging ever again), that I knew it wasn’t going to end well, and I didn’t listen to myself.

In leadership one of our less realised talents is from our Sensing Leader, that ability to move from ego to eco and to sense, to feel, and to inwardly know what is right, and what is being said when there are no words.  It’s a mixture of intuition and deep-seated knowledge that comes from the depths of our consciousness, experience and expertise.  Our Sensing Leader will know in a blink of an eye what the right thing to do is, or what the outcome will be – yet we often will quieten this inner wisdom to listen to the louder voice of our reasoning, our internal chatter that doubts and dissuades us from believing in ourselves.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink, relates this to thinking without thinking as we listen to our gut (or intuition) and the importance of these snap decisions.  He gives an example of this with Nic Braden, a US tennis coach in the 1960s and 70s.  At the age of 70, he found that when he was watching a tennis match, he was able to ‘call’ when a player was going to make a ‘double fault’ before they served.  “A player would toss the ball in the air, draw their racquet back, and just as he was about to make contact, Braden would blurt out ‘oh no, double fault’”.  He just knew, yet when he was asked to explain how he knew – was it how they stood, where they stood in relation to the line, their throwing technique etc – he simply couldn’t explain what he saw against what he knew.

On Friday, I had a warning feeling as I ate my lovingly prepared wild garlic mushrooms.  But instead of listening I instead heard my internal chatter proclaiming that I was making it all up and was just being silly.  Then when my tummy later on started to not feel quite right, my logical reasoning suggested I’d manifested the sensations, and it was a case of making my body believe what my mind had instructed it to believe.  After all, when we look for something bad to happen, we often find it.  So, I talked myself around into believing that I wasn’t feeling unwell, and that I’d just convinced my body to react that way.  Until 4 am in the morning that is.

So, I instinctively knew the mushrooms weren’t safe, but rather than admitting that I might have been a bit carless in my foraging, or over trusting of my friend’s abilities, I chose to say nothing.  Yet I knew.

How often as managers and leaders do we know – in a blink of an eye, that something is not right, or is perfect for us, or that something needs to happen or stop?  Probably more than we care to admit.  Yet as a Sensing Leader, that is the skill, to say out loud what our gut or intuition is telling us, even it’s not what we or others want to hear.  Yet, how do we discern our Sensing Leader from our inner Saboteurs, those nae-saying critics? Actually, easier than you think – our gut feeling always comes first.  Our intuition comes within nano seconds – all without us thinking.  It’s as soon we think, that’s when our conscious brain takes over and molds the argument to favour them, and never us.

So, the next time someone offers you a proverbial mushroom – what does your Sensing Leader say?