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  • Writer's pictureTerry Dockery


Jan looked at her co-interviewer Tom quizzically—she wasn’t sure what to make of this candidate for the President of the Division. His resume read like a Who’s-Who of power and success, and he handled himself with great self assurance and aplomb, but she was troubled by a queasy feeling in the pit of her stomach.

She couldn’t put her finger on it exactly, but she just didn’t trust the guy. He was just a little too perfect, and even his considerable polish couldn’t hide a tendency to be a bit condescending and dismissive. When she had broached her concerns with Tom earlier he had no idea what she was talking about, so now she was questioning her own perceptions and judgment.

Is this situation perfect, or what? Tom is a male and has been trained from a young age to rely most heavily on his analytical skills (his mind) to make decisions. Very often he sees feelings as a nuisance that he seeks to brush aside because they interfere with logical thinking. Tom’s mind tells him that this candidate is a sure winner and that they should make him an offer without further delay.

Jan meanwhile is a female and has been encouraged from a young age to value her feelings and intuition (her heart) in addition to logical thinking. She can’t quite articulate it yet, but she knows something doesn’t feel quite right about this candidate, and she suspects that ignoring those feelings will lead to a bad decision that she and her organization will regret in the future.

First, I ask the gender police to accept my acknowledgement that these generalizations about men and women as just that, vast generalizations that do not apply necessarily to individual men and women. But they are introduced as vehicles to make a larger point.

Your mind (thinking) and your heart (feelings) are both valuable sources of data for making good decisions. So by all means follow your heart, but be sure to use your head. Don’t handicap yourself by relying too heavily on one to the detriment of the other.

For example, a person who is all feelings and no thinking can be impulsive and self destructive. That impulse to strangle your coworker can be normal, but not thought through could be a major blow to your career. Conversely, someone who is all thinking and no feelings can be perceived as cold and difficult to identify with. Leaders who project this persona may be able to come up with great plans, but they will find that they have difficulty getting others to execute them because they are unable to inspire the passion and commitment necessary to see them through.


Technique #1: Know your heart. Throughout the day, ask yourself: “What am I feeling? What do I need?”

Technique #2: Use your head. Reflect on your options for a moment before you act in order to avoid the “Ready, Fire, Aim” syndrome of self destructiveness.

Technique #3: Live better through chemistry. Pay special attention to your feelings about others; there’s no substitute for good chemistry in a personal or professional relationship.

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