Leaders Don’t Ignore Their Instincts

Always trust your instincts

Coaching requires insight, thoughtfulness, analysis and sharing. It also requires a keen and astute ability to detach truthfulness from mendaciousness and to extract facts from communications. These same traits are required for good leadership: lead by example, share experiences, show enthusiasm for learning and (usually) don’t take what you see at face value.
All of those characteristics of coaching, leadership, emotional intelligence and personal growth are at the basis of the story I am sharing here today. So, here’s the story and the lesson that I have learned again: fortunately I learned it with no negative consequences except a little self-embarrassment and derogation. Analyze, assess, ask and assimilate all the facts – not just what you are told.

Recently, flicking through Netflix, I found a fascinating-sounding documentary about treasure pulled from a first-century AD shipwreck in the Indian Ocean. I’ve not enough space to share with you the fantastic details of the exploration, but suffice to say that it resulted in finding nearly 200 magnificent and enormous artifacts, included tons of gold, all of which were displayed in two museums in Venice. I was engaged and intrigued and told my friend she must watch. She immediate Googled the show with the intention of watching it herself and guess what? She found out that the entire film and the entire shipwreck and exploration were a tremendous hoax. I had watched and been utterly fooled by a “mockumentary!” Damien Hirst created it so that the art establishment and mere bystanders, like me, would be fooled. The exhibit HAD occurred in Venice but it consisted of all new works of art made to look old and was utterly panned by the critics. Hirst invested $64 million in the hoax. And, with me at least, it succeeded. (Read more here if you want: http://www.palazzograssi.it/en/exhibitions/past/damien-hirst-at-palazzo-grassi-and-punta-della-dogana-in-2017-1/)

Why I am telling you this story? Because sometimes you need to follow your instincts.

1. Don’t ignore red flags when they are waved in front of your eyes: Why hadn’t I heard of this fantastic archeological finding that occurred just a few years ago? Why was the weird and controversial artist Damien Hirst funding an undersea exploration? How could these huge two-story high sculptures been transported on a ship in the first century? How could tons of gold have been loaded onto the ship and where did it come from? The answer, in the context of the mockumentary, was “because the narrator said so.” Well, I should have looked into things rather than accepting at face value. The same is true when you are dealing with your employees, sales associates, colleagues, superiors and anyone else you meet in business or personally. What you want and need from another is not always on the surface.

2. Why did I silence my intuitions? I thought of Googling while I watched. I do this as a matter of course. The movies Dunkirk, The Greatest Showman, Maudie, the t.v. show The Crown – each and every one I checked on the facts, but I guess I really wanted to believe this ship wreck and the fabulous finds were true. Or perhaps I was just being lazy. I’m not sure, but either way I silenced by intuitions. Bad idea. Again, same in your everyday life – don’t take the easy road and believe what you hear. Take the time to research and analyze. Draw a conclusion only when you have amassed all the facts to your personal satisfaction. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

There is a silver lining in my being fooled. First of all – I reminded myself not to take myself too seriously. I wasn’t a fool for falling for the hoax, I was just one of the many millions who will watch this and believe. No harm was done. But, I did get a great reminder to check the facts and not believe everything – even when heard with my own ears and seen with my own eyes. Lesson learned – this time at least. (And I still recommend the movie – watch it for what it is: a semi-work of art at the art-establishments expense.)

Remember: Analyze, assess, ask and assimilate all the facts – not just what you are told.

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