Leadership Insights by Jay-Ann Gilfoy
Reflecting on my learning journey.
Leading a new organization with lofty goals can be daunting: Inspiring a bold vision, recruiting and engaging a new team, exploring how to implement smart technology and processes, figuring out how to position our market value, and building customer relationships all simultaneously.
Each one of these challenges on its own has vast breadth and depth, coupled with the decisions that need to be made every day, repeat.
When I tell people what we are up to, most look at me as if I am crazy and then they ask about my background and how I got to be in this role. I explain my relatively unconventional leadership path, and the next question is, “How do you have the ability to make decisions about things that you do not have a background in?”
The answer that pops into my head immediately is that I lead with my hands, my head and my heart at the same time.
I have learned to be a problem solver, an action seeker and an organizer of many tasks, but that is not the whole answer. All of these skills and capabilities you learn over time through trial and error. Intuition, on the other hand, is the feeling you get when you are fully engaged in an activity. It guides you in some way or another. Intuition is a tool or muscle that we all have but do not always choose to use. In fact, as we get older and more attuned to looking at facts and data, we often lose our connection to our bodies which provides signals to our environment.
About the same time as I started my new role, I was hurriedly shopping at my local grocery store on my way home from work, and the woman who was getting me some fish for dinner said, “Are you having a bad day?” I responded, "It’s been a hectic one for sure but not bad.” I guess I looked tired… I smiled at her and carried on my way to the produce section. As I was picking out vegetables for my dinner, the woman who served me in the fish section came up behind me and said: “You used to be able to see things, and you have lost that skill.” She then said, “I think you should tap into it more.” I don’t know why she felt compelled to follow me, but I left the store with a sense that she was right. I had been spending too much time in my head with all I have to do and not enough time in my heart, getting grounded and connected to my inner self and to my intuition.
- I am trying to re-establish using intuition as a compass to what is happening around me, to spend time each day listening to my whole self as I work through the issues-of-the-day, and to call out when I am sensing something needs to be looked at differently. Then I go to gather the information that can help make a decision.
- I have found setting aside purposeful time to practice this is important. I have also found - interestingly enough - that when you say how you are feeling about something, others respond in a different way. It takes away any analytical judging reactions and allows us to laser focus on the issue and the problem.
- Intuition may be ‘just a hunch’ that leads nowhere, but it can also be something that you look back on after you have taken a path, reflecting, “Huh, my intuition was telling me not to do that or I am glad I listened to that inner voice on this one.”
Maybe by tapping into it and following my intuition more closely, I will be a better-balanced leader, mother, daughter and friend.
I do know that being solidly grounded in my own feelings and inner voice gives me the confidence and energy to keep going.
[Originally published, LinkedIn June 3, 2019]
Jay-Ann Gilfoy, a visionary senior leader who develops high-performing teams with a future-oriented focus on people, purpose + profits all operating at their highest potential. Learn more about Jay-Ann here.