Why Do I Need To Trust My Instincts?

I once worked with a Director of Sales for a large pharmaceutical company.  They brought me in to work with their team who they experienced as slow and unproductive.  If it was just one or two people, they could just replace them they told me – but it was their whole team so they needed to solve the issue.  They wanted me to talk with each person and find out what was behind their unproductive behavior and then design a team building or some kind of intervention to get everyone on track.  I suggested that we start with the Kolbe A Index in addition to individual interviews.  What I found from the Kolbe A Index scores was that this Director of Sales’ way of instinctively solving problems was directly opposite to all of their team members. The Director was very data-driven – their instinct was to gather lots of data.  Yet, the team had different instincts – mostly to gather just enough data but no more.  The solution to the problem was understanding and compromise on both sides – and some very specific work in helping everyone get back in touch with their instincts.

Practice Makes Perfect

When it comes to business, you really do “stop and think” too much and there is a more effective way.  It takes practice, but you can re-learn how to trust your gut.

Engaging with your instincts to use them most effectively takes some practice.  Especially because most people have been taught to “stop and think”.  But think about something like driving a car.  Yes, you learned the rules of the road before you got behind the wheel – but once you got behind the wheel it was all about doing, over and over again. As a new driver, you probably thought more about what you were doing and it made you a slower, less effective driver. But now, years and years later, with lots of experience under your belt (that’s the cognitive part) and with more confidence (that’s the affective part) you do less thinking before you act and take more instinctive action.  Know someone who you think is a terrible driver?  I bet you think it’s because they are still thinking too much about it – and you would be right. When it comes to business, you really do “stop and think” too much and there is a more effective way.  It takes practice, but you can re-learn how to trust your gut.

When I took the Kolbe A Index and realized that I instinctively gather data at the start of every problem-solving endeavor, a huge light bulb went off for me.  It explains why I reach for a book or do an internet search when I’m wrestling with a problem I need to solve.  It explains why I start each coaching assignment with data gathering, and it helped me to understand that not everyone is like me and I need to adjust myself accordingly.  I needed to find a way to honor my way of instinctively taking action with my need to run a business and meet the needs of my clients. 

I Can’t Afford to Act This Way

I know you are probably thinking to yourself, this is all well and good but I have a business to run, people count on me.  I can’t afford to act this way.  I can’t afford to Act before I Think, or trust my ‘gut’. I say you can’t afford not to.  Because not doing those things are the root of most of what is going wrong in your quest for time management, productivity, and organizational effectiveness.  There aren’t going to be any more hours added to the day.  You and your employees aren’t going to spend less time at the office continuing on the path you are on right now.  You can’t continue to ignore the one thing you can always count on.

Your Instinctive Drive

There is so much turmoil and uncertainty in our lives.  It seems that we are always grasping at something, anything to remain stable.  As humans, you are hard-wired to seek stability.  Yet, the one thing you can count on – your instinctive drive – you ignore.  That’s the thing about instinctive drive.  It is always there, even when you ignore it and do the opposite – it is still there.  Even when your gut says one thing, but you do another, it is always there.  It doesn’t stop, because it is your instinct.  And even if you have spent the last 20 years ignoring it, it still tries to tell you the best way to go.  That’s where your stress comes in.  Your instinctive drive is always prompting, prodding, sometimes screaming at you – it really is the one thing you can count on in this crazy world.

If you ignore how you are best suited to contribute, in favor of how you are supposed to act – you are ignoring your instinctive drive. When you blame low productivity on bad attitudes or organizational ineffectiveness, you are ignoring the instinctive drive of your employees.  When you try to use only two parts of your mind and forget about the third part, you are less productive, less satisfied, less engaged – honestly, just less of everything.  And it doesn’t just affect you, it affects your team and your family as well.

When you trust your gut you make better decisions – because you are using all three parts of your mind, not just one or two.  You reduce conflicts because you understand that there are different ways of solving problems, and there isn’t just one right way.  You improve communication by giving yourself and the people you work with a language to talk about and honor your MO’s.  And by giving yourself and others the freedom to instinctively take action, you increase your effectiveness and get more done.  When you aren’t working against your grain, you have more energy and can accomplish more.  Remember that example of doing something you don’t like to do?  Imagine if that went away, or was significantly diminished.  Imagine how much energy you would free up that you can use to accomplish your goals.

Re-Learning to Trust Your Gut

So where to begin?  How can you re-learn to trust your gut?  How can you solve problems easily and effortlessly, taking less time and with less stress?

My first recommendation is to Learn your MO – your modus operandi.  And then learn how to use it.  Learn how your MO compares with how you think your job needs to be done.  Learn what your boss thinks is the best MO for your job.  And then create a strategy to accommodate bringing your best self and the needs of your organization together. Learn the MOs of your employees. Learn if your perceptions of the MO required to do their job matches their perceptions.  And then align the two for maximum impact.

Learn how the Kolbe Wisdom can be applied throughout your organization whether on teams or in recruiting and see the difference it can make.

A Scrambled Brain

Utilizing the third part of your mind is critical as you navigate in today’s chaotic world.  Ignoring it, or worse yet, frustrating it, leads to stress and strain that knows no cure.

A few years ago, Kathy Kolbe did a study where the brain waves of study participants were mapped – both when they were working within their MO and when they were working against their grain.  What she found was then when you work against your grain, your brain waves are quite scrambled, working inefficiently but when you are working in your MO your brain waves are working quite efficiently and smoothly.  This study showed what Kathy has hypothesized about and studied through observation – that the brain doesn’t work as well when we are working against our grain.  It shows that working in our MO allows our brains to work powerfully and with greater ease.

Time management techniques have their place, but to truly achieve work-life balance you need to go deeper and utilize all three parts of your mind.  Knowledge is power and now you are aware that your mind has three parts – the cognitive, the affective AND the conative.  Take that awareness and put it into action – complete the Kolbe A Index for yourself, have your team do the same.  Learn how the Kolbe Wisdom can change your life and the life of your organization in the most positive ways.

Interested in taking the Kolbe Index?  Want some coaching on how to apply it to your unique situation?  Email me and we can get started today!


Beth Banks Cohn
Beth Banks Cohn
BETH is dedicated to helping individuals and companies implement business changes that actually work. Beth believes in the ripple effect – that change handled well benefits everyone in an organization, over and over again. As a recognized expert in change as well as corporate culture, Beth consults domestically and internationally with a wide range of disciplines and businesses. Beth is the author of two books: ChangeSmart™: Implementing Change Without Lowering your Bottom Line and Taking the Leap: Managing Your Career in Turbulent Times…and Beyond (with Roz Usheroff).

CHECK FOR TICKETS / JOIN OUR WAITING LIST! It's not a virtual event. It's not a conference. It's not a seminar, a meeting, or a symposium. It's not about attracting a big crowd. It's not about making a profit, but rather about making a real difference. LEARN MORE HERE



  1. Many things can open or close the doors to our instinctual component: they are our beliefs, the conception we have of life, the way we relate to ourselves, the roles we play, but also education, religious beliefs, feeling common, morality. If all these things do not interfere, instinct can flow freely and our behavior will be in harmony. Otherwise we can trigger an inner conflict that threatens to block us, make us fake and unhappy. Often when we are wrong in life it is precisely because we do not follow instinct, but rules and conventions, or we are conditioned by fears and feelings of guilt. On the other hand, the instinctive decision, once we have learned to listen to it, is always respectful of what we are and does what needs to be done. When we let instincts flow freely and immediately translate into emotions, feelings, thoughts, ideas, creativity, then from the deep areas of the brain comes inspiration to take each time the right path and live in a harmonious state of well-being.