“Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.”

– Jonas Salk, Developer of the Polio Vaccine


I’ve had the fortune of working with and mentoring some really smart talent. I once managed a product manager, Brian who was extremely talented but didn’t have much confidence. He would constantly seek me out for direction and feedback, thinking that he needed approval before taking the next step.

One day, I took him out to lunch to have a heart to heart. I said, “Brian, it is time to trust your intuition. You have a stellar education and such potential, but you lack the confidence in your own intuition. You should focus on listening to and developing your intuition. Your intuition will tell you what to do, and then you need to follow through and see if your intuition is correct. If it isn’t, then take the lesson to adjust your intuition.”

Brian responded, “but, I’m just unsure of what to do.”

To which, I responded, “The only way to improve your skills as a leader is to listen to and develop your intuition. Tell me what you think first, before asking me what I think.”

Over the next few months, I saw an unreal progression of development in Brian. The confidence, the energy, and the work were incredible. He began to believe in himself and test and improve his intuition. And, our relationship elevated to the next level, where our conversations weren’t about telling him what to do, but about furthering his thoughts.


What is intuition?

Intuition is the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning. When I counsel people on their career, I always premise it by saying, “One of the goals of your career should be to develop and improve your intuition.” We all look at the world and situations in a certain way that is particular to us, our history, our experiences, our thought processes, and our context. And, our initial reaction to and thoughts of a situation is our intuition, otherwise known as our gut. Over time, the gut of excellent leaders gets better and better, until they’re able to cut through the noise of almost any situation and provide the clear and simple path forward.


Why is intuition important?

You typically don’t have weeks and months to analyze a situation. Realistically you might have minutes, hours and maybe days to figure things out. Your intuition is what guides you, leads you to the right hypothesis, great ideas, and elegant solutions. Think back 5 or 10 years ago. You probably saw situations very differently. Your progression is your intuition growing, your wisdom developing, your collective experiences rolled up into how your gut feels about a situation.


How do you develop your intuition?

Developing your intuition is no easy task, but there are best practices.


Believe in yourself

The first step is believing in yourself and your intuition. Believe in it, and see where it takes you. Take away any negative thoughts or doubt about your gut and yourself and build up the ability to listen to the thoughts deep within you.


Make these tools second nature

With practice, many of the tools on will become second nature. They will simply be how you see the world and become an integral part of your intuition.


Understand cause and effect

Improving your intuition is based on how well you learn from your experiences and mistakes. Internalize the learnings from situations. Without feedback from your experiences, you can’t improve your intuition.


Lead with your gut, but follow with facts

Intuition taps into the ability of your brain to recognize patterns, make connections, and form new ideas. When your gut is trying to tell you something, listen to your thoughts and feelings. And, once you listen to your gut, then find the facts to prove or disprove your intuition.


Understand your biases

Inherent and deep-seated biases often block strong intuition. Are you typically overconfident, think you’re the customer or are trying to prove a point? To improve your intuition address your biases and fallacies. We go over biases in-depth in the section on rational decision making.





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