Why is it important for business leaders to follow their instincts?

Business Support | Columnists | Growth
Greg Le Tocq

Greg Le Tocq is the co-founder of Cloud Savings Company – which owns Vouchercloud. Groupon recently bought the business for $65m. 

Instinct is a tool cultivated through years of experience. It’s also known as the gut feeling, empathy, or even intuition. Whatever word you put to it, it’s the part of the brain making a decision before the conscious mind can catch up.

Just as we practice throwing and get more accurate over time, we can train our own innate instinct. The more experienced a leader is in business, the more developed that instinct becomes.

For some, not following a gut feeling is expected – even encouraged. It means them going for the safest option – the one backed up by data, research and experience. In previous years, going for the safe option would have been a strong choice. As the speed of business increases at an exponential rate, relying exclusively on that old data becomes less effective.

Reanalyse existing data 

Some research was featured in The Telegraph a few years ago. They reported that the vast majority of successful leaders in a business – nine in 10 – will reanalyse existing data if their instinct is contradicting it.

Any organisation that solely relies on precedent and existing strategies is limiting itself in terms of long term prospects. What happens when there is no data? No trodden path to take you where you need to go?

Not honing instinct when it’s optional means that, as a leader, you’ll fall flat when it comes to the real make or break decisions. The key here is to combine this instinct with as much real-world data as possible to make the best choices.

Two types of business 

There are two types of business – one that fills an existing need, and another that fills a need that people may not know they have yet. In developing vouchercloud into a global force, the business sat squarely in the latter.

Digital discounts were new at the time, as were apps. It also meant that the roadmaps to success simply did not exist. Informed instinct was quickly leaned upon as a driving force behind the success of the company.

It’s the same with hiring the best people. As an entrepreneur running a company, it’s vital to surround yourself with good people. In actually finding those people, data on a CV can rarely put across just how good they actually are.

One of the longest standing leaders on our team is a perfect example of this. We met and immediately identified a shared goal – we wanted to make things happen. He’s here nearly a decade later sat on our global international leadership team.

Surround yourself with people better than you

The most important thing when you’re growing an organisation is to surround yourself with people who are better than you – who compliment you. It’s never going to be a one-man show. Team up with the right people and bring them on the journey with you.

Andrew Lang, the Scottish novelist, once said that “Politicians use statistics in the same way that a drunk uses lamp-posts – for support rather than illumination.” He had it backwards. In the modern world, we too often rely on statistics and the safe option at the expense of other strategies. For the path untrod, risk goes hand in hand with reward.

From managing people to raising money, adopting a strategy and growing a business, never underestimate the power of following your own instincts – provided those instincts are honed by experience. Source as much information as possible and make educated decisions, but always listen to what your gut is telling you. That’s one of the best lessons I’ve learned.

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