• Bill Leinweber

  • About Bill Leinweber

    Bill Leinweber's mission is to help businesses and organizations grow by combining efficient processes with great customer and employee experience.

    Bill is the Chief Experience Officer & Owner of Landmark Experience LLC, a consultancy, where he loves to help business leaders walk in their customers' shoes and devise memorable and meaningful experiences for both customers, guests, visitors, employees and business partners. After all, have you ever heard of customer loyalty and business growth without GREAT customer experience?

    Bill's 30 year career spans retail and office products distribution operations in both small, family-owned and global mega-businesses. He has managed customer service operations, sales support, customer on-boarding and business intelligence teams while also serving as an internal consultant and subject matter expert. Bill has helped his past employers improve their customer engagement processes and achieve their goals of customer experience excellence and loyalty.

    Bill loves to talk and speak about customer experience as well, so don't be afraid to ask!

    Bill Leinweber
    Landmark Experience

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Check Your Intuition At The Door – the small business leg-up on corporate giants

Where ‘o where did my intuition go?

So I was wondering the other day, what happened to my intuition?  And exactly when did I lose it?  Okay, let me back up a bit.  You see, I’m working with a business coach and she was taking our group through an exercise to tap into our intuition.  My experience with that exercise was so profound and resulted in such a vivid revelation that I began to wonder when exactly did I stop using or trusting my intuition.  Apparently, I had totally forgotten how reliable and accurate my intuition had been.

As I started to think back, I suddenly realized that when I was in my twenties, I used my intuition like crazy!  My intuition is what guided me to move back from Massachusetts to my hometown of Cleveland.  At 29, a suggestion from a complete stranger nudged me to accept a job with two partners at their B2B office supply company rather than another position at a competing company for more money.  But it was my intuition that told me to trust what that stranger, my soon to be brother-in-law, told me on the very day I first met him.  Accepting that job turned out to be one of the best decisions of my career.  And when one of the business owners told me that I needed to fire an uncooperative manager who resented me, the outsider who took a position the manager felt should be his, it was my intuition that told me not to fire him.  I knew in my gut that I could win this manager over (which I did) and I knew the business needed his skills and contributions.  The manager went on to be one of the key members of the management team and later told me I was the best boss he’d ever had.  What if I had fired him?

Intuition.  We also call it “gut feeling” or “a hunch.”  If you haven’t already read it, I recommend the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.  In it, he describes the concept of adaptive unconscious and how our brain is actually a tool of rapid cognition.  Our unconscious mind is capable of processing a high volume of sophisticated information very fast – we’re just unaware that our brains are doing it.  And yet, “We live in a world,” as Gladwell states, “that assumes that the quality of a decision is directly related to the time and effort that went into making it.”

But, we’re going to crash and burn!

Years later in the corporate world, I was working as a key participant on a mammoth project.  The project team was gathered around a huge conference table and Geri, the Project Manager, asked each of us what were our biggest concerns and what was keeping us up at night.  When it was my turn, I simply said, “the time line.”  “We can accomplish anything we set out to,” I continued, “but the scope of this project and the time line are out of whack.  We’re going to lose a ton of customers.”  I knew in my gut the business wouldn’t be able to handle the transactional volume.  But Geri wanted specifics.  Why, specifically, was the time line too aggressive?  Exactly what project tracks were too short?  When would things fail and on what date?

Geri pushed for details that I could not give her on the spot.  I might have scrutinized Gantt charts of the time line and spent my evenings pouring over the project plan but I didn’t need to do that.  My adaptive unconscious had already done it, had already processed volumes of data from my past experience.  In the prior 19 years, I had participated in the combination of two small businesses and merged their sales and customer data and processes into one.  I subsequently helped to merge 3 similar-sized divisions of a corporation into one division, combined 22 locations into 5, merged three customer service teams in 6 locations into 1.  Over time, my adaptive unconscious had become an “expert” in assessing project scope.  The project was most certainly doable but, not in the time allotted and not to the level of quality the steering committee and business at large was expecting.  I just knew the project would hit a threshold of critical mass.

That said, I understood Geri’s predicament.  She couldn’t very well walk into an executive steering committee meeting and say, “Ladies and gentlemen of the steering committee, Bill Leinweber ‘has a bad feeling’ about our project time line.  As a result, we’re adjusting it”  They would have asked Geri to, um, step down, if you catch my drift.  Ultimately, three months after it began, the migration project was halted for several months because the business was overwhelmed just as my intuition had told me it would be.  Several project tracks were overhauled and resources redeployed.  If the business had the capability to trust the expertise for which they were paying me, it might have saved several million dollars.   But  large complex corporations aren’t built to work that way.

Mystery Solved

And there, I think, is the clue to what happened to my intuition.  In my twenties, I wasn’t conditioned to be suspicious of it so I trusted it and used it regularly. Most corporate environments would rather you check your intuition at the door in favor of charts, spreadsheets and endless data analysis.  The more data the better, the more research the better but goodness, don’t trust someone’s “gut feeling.”  I’m not saying that data doesn’t have its place. Certainly it does.  But businesses are missing a vast wealth of knowledge and expertise by not cultivating the intuition of their employees.

My partner, Steven, is a great example.  His intuition is alive and well.  He taps into it regularly and, as some people know, has made startling predictions that have come true.  Not coincidentally, Steven has spent more years as an entrepreneur than he has in structured corporate environments.  Could that be why his intuition works so well?  It hasn’t been severely diminished with “Intuition bad, more data good” dogma.  As a result, Steven exercises his intuition regularly and, like any tool or skill that is practiced and conditioned, it’s both reliable and trusted.   Could it also be that women of my mother’s era were gifted with “a woman’s intuition” because so many women of that era were not in an environment that brainwashed them into believing that they should stifle it?

Do you trust your own and your employees intuition?

If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur, your intuition is what led you into your business to begin with.  Oh sure, you had to create your business plan to convince the bank and investors that your idea had merit.  But guess what?  It was your intuition that told you your business could succeed, that your product/service has a need and a niche.  And despite the very best of business cases and presentations, the bankers and investors made their decision about your business using their own intuition even if they didn’t realize it.   You’re paying your employees to bring their intellect, experience and skills to task in their role at your company.  Tap into the intuition of your long-term, most experienced employees.  All the while they’ve been working for you and before then, their adaptive unconscious have been gathering and processing volumes of data.  Next time you’re making a major decision in your business, ask your key employees, “what do you think?”  When they produce a chart, graph or a workbook of spreadsheets out of sheer habit, ask again, “No, what do YOU think?”  You may be surprised by the wealth of intuitive data already in their heads.  And your business will be taking advantage of a resource so many others miss.

5 Responses

  1. Cool, Bill. Loved your article. To add to the “support” for your intuition, I actually had a somewhat recent incident where I intuitively knew something that I was going to present and I asked: But what would be concrete support for that? And the concrete support came to mind. When I presented my intuitive logic the person asked for an example. Gave it. Heard: Ahhh, good point.

    At the end of the day, though, Bill, it wasn’t CORPORATE. I am biased, and I say that the problem working with corporate is that there are no decision-makers. There’s are committees who are supported by workers and at the top there’s a Board of Directors. They MUST please the shareholders … who have absolutely NOTHING to do with running the business.

    This is precisely why I work with business OWNERS — because they’re decision-makers.

    Good article, though. Loved it.

    • Lynne,
      Thanks for the feedback on my post and for sharing your own experience! Your example is very telling. What I’m hearing you say is one can use their intuition to support their intuitive logic – which is brilliant. Thanks again!


      • Must chime in here! In his book “Breaking the Rules,” which I LOVE, Kurt Wright talks about the rational (I think he calls it analytic) mind serving the role of asking the intuitive mind the “right” questions to reveal what you need to know. This is what I hear that Lynne did.

        Great post, Bill, and love you both!

      • Thanks, Darla. I always appreciate your insight and your intuition is right on target.

  2. Just read your article. EXCELLENT! Years and years ago (yes, it has been many) you told me that you always trusted my instinctive responses. To this day, when faced with a decision, I still rely on my instincts versus over thinking a situation – all because of you. If I find myself dwelling on something, I recall your comment and go with “my gut”. It has never failed me!

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