Gutfeeling -- the new kid in the boardroom
by Peter Urs Bender

In the olden days, a board consisted of a bunch of stiff, old, cliquish, cigar-smoking men. They called it "The Old Boys Club." Logic, Analysis and Profitability were the keywords.

Then came the Sixties. Women were appearing in boardrooms. Cigar smoking was replaced by cigarettes, then by no smoking at all. Logic, Analysis and Profitability were still the keywords.

But by 2020, or even sooner, you will see women running the show. Smoke is out, warmth is in. Logic, Analysis and Profitability will still be here. But Gutfeeling, intuition, or even hunches will come onto the table for discussion. And if you really start looking at them, you will find they are as real as Logic, Analysis and Profitability.

I first began to recognize the importance of instinct and intuition -- I call it Gutfeeling, which is the title of my new book – when I did a survey of Canadian leaders for my earlier book, Leadership from Within. The leaders I talked to all mentioned that what their "gut" told them was important in the way they made their decisions. When I pursued this theme I got some amazing answers.

George A. Cohon, president of McDonald's Restaurants of Canada Limited, wrote the following:
I remember well when I was a young lawyer in Chicago and I had a client that was interested in acquiring a McDonald's franchise for Hawaii. For the better part of a year, I negotiated with McDonald's on his behalf. I met with Ray Kroc, McDonald's Founder, frequently and I was pretty sure we had things in the bag. I had developed a good relationship with Ray; we understood each other, we trusted one another and we liked one another. I didn't see how he could possibly turn us down, but he did. Ray had his own way of doing things. He put great store in his instincts -- instincts that had, by the way, served him very well. Ray's instincts were at work when he was on a flight one day and found himself sitting beside a bright energetic Hawaiian resident who seemed to have everything Ray was looking for in a franchisee. They hit it off, and before the plane touched down, the Hawaiian franchise was gone.
Other businessmen told me similar stories. Internationally known financial and business consultant Jerry White told me that Gutfeeling was "the critical point of differentiation between Managers and Leaders." Renee Unger, a highly successful business woman and president of Intercorp Excelle said, "One has to learn to listen to one's Gutfeeling."

White quoted U.S. General Norman Schwartzkopf who often said after the Gulf War, "We always intuitively know the right thing to do. The hardest thing is to do it!"

Frank C. Buckley, chairman of W.K. Buckley Limited, said: "All good business decisions have to be based on logic and reason. But there is another factor. Intuition – what you call Gutfeeling." He went on to explain that when his company's management committee looks at new opportunities it analyses them, then reflects on them. "Reflecting on the analyses is one of the most important parts of the process. It gives us time to have sober second thoughts, and to listen to our inner feelings."

When Premier Mike Harris of Ontario told the people of the province he felt it was time to retire he simply said, "I feel it in my gut."

One after another business leaders admitted, sometimes openly, sometimes reluctantly, that Gutfeeling was an important factor in business decision-making. I believe that Gutfeeling rarely leads you astray, and that it is as critical to employ feeling and emotions in a business situation as it is to spend hours crunching numbers.

Women are often much better at this than men. That's because since school days, they have used logic, emotion and intuition for making decisions. Women pay more attention to their emotions than men. Even with the tremendous social pressures placed on them, they often maintain their "Emotional Quotient" in decision-making.

So how, if one is not sure, does one access one's Gutfeeling? It can be elusive. You have to learn to identify it before you can catch it.

The worst way is to worry about it. All you're doing is creating stress for yourself.

First, try to identify a single Gutfeeling. Then try for another. Once you recognize these intuitions you will come to understand what triggers them. That's when you can start to use them more systematically. Allow them to come out and become part of your thinking/feeling process.

Ask yourself a question such as, "If I don't follow my instinct, what will be the result?" Then list the pro's and con's. Balance your list. Make your decision. You will have gained the benefit both of instinct and analysis. Your decision will be better for it.

As an executive in a board meeting -- think of yourself as an athlete competing in the Olympics. Athletes have to work hard to learn the skills they perform. But once they reach a certain level they have to "relax into" the activity. It's the same with Gutfeeling. Just relax into it. To read a complimentary sample from Gutfeeling visit my website at and click on the book cover.

Peter Urs Bender is one of Canada’s most dynamic and entertaining business speakers. He lives and works out of Toronto. He is the author of four best-selling business books: Leadership from Within, Secrets of Power Presentations, Secrets of Power Marketing, Secrets of Face-to-Face Communication, and Gutfeeling.
To read excerpts from his books visit