As a young man obsessed with driving rapid sports cars (often far too rapidly,) I considered myself extremely fortunate to have my very own mechanic who would regularly tune my latest “beasts” to perfection. He was a genius, and to watch him go about his work – which was his obsession – was an honor and a privilege. He rarely lifted the hood (bonnet) until he was ready to perform his magic, but rather he just listened – not unlike the way a master piano-tuner listens. He was using his well-trained ear to identify the slightest imperfection.
I knew him well – he was my father – and he was one of the most intuitive people I have ever known.
Very occasionally, I have witnessed the same thing in my commercial life, but sadly, far too rarely. It is that trait that distinguishes the great manager or leader from the also-rans.
Being intuitive means that we “feel” we don’t just see or even hear. We are completely in-tune with our team; we understand each of them; we know what motivates every one of them; we are able to stimulate and goad them in equal measure in order to elicit optimum performance levels from them, and as a consequence we have a team that can achieve remarkable things.
Can anyone become an intuitive manager or leader? Yes, of course they can. I have always believed that if one person can do something then we can all do it – if we really want to that is. Example? I could give you so many, but this is my personal favorite…
Up until that balmy May evening in 1954 at the Iffley Road track in Oxford, England when Roger Bannister ran the mile in under four minutes, everyone believed it to be impossible but then later that same year another sixteen athletes also ran sub-four minutes, because it had been proved to be possible.
In order to become a truly intuitive manager you first have to have an interest in people – a genuine interest. Then you have to know and understand yourself well; you have to be comfortable and confident with who you are and with your management/leadership style.
When I communicate with my team – and in fact my client’s teams too – I listen for what is not said as much as what is; I understand and recognize gaps in written communication; I immediately notice facial expressions, body posture and voice tone. It is more than a skill. I have honed it and developed it over the years, and it has stood me in good stead. It is like a sixth sense, and I feel privileged to have it.
So, the next time you survey your team, ask yourself this question: “Do I feel my team; do I understand each of them – do I need to lift the hood (bonnet) to reach them, or can I just listen and hear their imperfections, and then fine-tune them to peak performance levels?” If you can, congratulations, you are practicing the fine art of intuitive management!