Merge's Blog

Use your intuition to make better strategic decisions

ChiliJeff Mowatt is a customer service strategist and I am proud to say, my professional colleague.  I was delighted when he agreed to be my guest-blogger today, and I was even more excited when he told me it was going to be about chili!  Alas, this wasn’t chili that I could eat :).  Turns out that Jeff likens how a chef cooks a pot of chili to how leaders should hone their intuition.

Chili and Your Intuition: 4 ingredients for making better strategic decisions

As a business owner or manager, what you ultimately rely on most when deciding your company’s future is your intuition. The challenge with so many stakeholders relying on you to make the ‘right’ decision is ensuring that your instincts are reliable. Effective leaders hone their intuition the way a chef cooks a pot of chili. Like chili, intuition needs to include the right ingredients and then be allowed to simmer a while. Here are four ingredients for you to stew on.

  1. Get customer coaching.  Even as a senior executive, you’ll end up making better decisions after spending some time at the front line talking directly with customers. Ask them the key question, “What can we do to improve our service?”
  2. Listen to those in-the-know. It’s an understatement to point out that Sam Walton had good business instincts. Wal-Mart’s founder said, “Listen to everyone in your company, especially the ones who actually talk to customers. They really know what’s going on out there.” ‘Nuff said.
  3. Ask your competitors – really! I’m not just referring to visiting your competitor’s store. If you are in a service industry there may not be a store per se to visit. One of the best ways to learn from the competition is to join your professional trade association. There are associations for virtually every occupation on the planet. I’ve always found that when it comes to joining a professional association, the more you get involved and contribute to the group, the more you ultimately receive. Give a lot to your association and your competitors will share a lot with you.
  4. Clarify your code. We all read the headlines of high profile managers facing criminal charges. Apparently, their primary moral code is maximizing short term profits at all cost. Increasingly, individual managers are being held personally accountable by shareholders, government regulators, and consumers for their ethics. When making strategic decisions, ask yourself, “Is this the right way to conduct our business?” I found that since I clarified my personal values and priorities, my business decisions aren’t always as expedient, but they certainly are better for my reputation over the long term. Over the long term, your personal reputation is everything.

When you take all these ingredients, mix em’ up and chew on em’ a while. Chances are you’ll end up making wiser decisions for your organization. That’s a flavour all your company’s stakeholders will enjoy. Bon Appetit!

When making strategic decisions, are you making it a point to include Jeff’s four ingredients in your chili?  Why or why not?

Jeff talks more about this concept in his bestselling book, Becoming a Service Icon in 90 Minutes a Month.  You can find out more about Jeff and his work at his website

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