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Resilience: when trusting your instincts is the right thing to do

One of the key skills of a great resilience professional is the ability to trust your gut instincts. In this article Paul Kudray explains why this is the case and why sometimes the plan needs to take a back seat…

There are times when you don’t need a well-developed plan. Times when you can trust your instincts and go for it!

Now to some of the risk professionals, this may seem like an illogical thing for a resilience professional to be stating? But think about it for a few seconds! I know there have been times when you’ve listened to your own internal instincts and made decisions that somehow ‘told you’ to defy logic and you did something. Despite the odds, things worked out and it proved to be the right decision. The inner you was right!

This is not de-resilience

This may only equate to a few times in your life, but the fact is, with our heavy focus on what we need to do to be resilient, adaptable and flexible to change, sometimes we don’t have the time - or the confidence – to follow or create a well-developed contingency plan.

It would be wrong for me to endorse de-resilient leadership (and I’m not). The attitude that says: ‘It will never happen here’; ‘Why do we need resilience’ and/or ‘When it happens we will all chip in and stand up and be counted’ is not what I’m talking about.

De-resilience is not based on trusting your gut instinct; let’s be truthful and frank, de-resilience is dated and yesteryear! It’s like shirts made out of nylon. The only thing it creates is static and a nasty little electric shock when you’re not expecting it!

Resilience is the grey between the black and white of the written plan

Perhaps, midway through developing a plan, your instinct’s told you something isn’t right? All the things appear to be there, but something needs changing at the last minute, because it doesn’t feel good.

Maybe you’ve created a seemingly perfect plan, but on the day the crisis hit, the incident manager defied logic - and your well formatted plan - to choose another option, saving the day?

As a planner, the easy option is to follow last year’s plan. Maybe your boss wrote it and changing it seems like a career limiting move? Your gut instinct however, might say the easy, safe, route isn’t the right thing to do.  The tough decision is whether to follow your gut and become known as someone who isn’t afraid to challenge.

Maybe you’re a new broom and you’ve completely scrapped the old plan format for a new more efficient (modern) way, because your instinct told you it wasn’t right and you decided to stand up and be counted – even when the bosses complained because they preferred the other style?

I’ve seen it many times in the ‘lesson identified log’ following a debrief. People tell you that the action they were given is complete. But your instincts tell you it’s a tick in the box answer, rather than it being done effectively. It can often defy logic to go against a colleague, but when you don’t and something fails, you are just as much to blame if you ignored your internal warning signs.

When the plan is going through its final quality assurance check before the go live date, departments will tell you that all of the tests have been done. But your instincts might tell you to ask one more probing question…

Great planners use all their skills; not just the obvious ones.

It’s time to be yourself

Oscar Wilde famously said: “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”

It’s critical that as resilience professionals we don’t leave our intuition at the door. Plans are made and steps are there to be followed. But deep down we know. *You* know.

For me, one of the critical differences between the leaders in our industry and the people assigned to fill the rest of the seats, is their ability to stand up and be counted. It’s important to read and acknowledge industry literature and standards, yes. But it’s (possibly) more important to allow instincts to develop and learn to trust ourselves when our intuition talks.

Sense is the silence between the noise

Trusting our intuition is something we’re trained out of as small children. For many of us, by the time we reach adulthood, it’s a lost art and maybe something we’re more likely to label as indigestion than gut instinct! How often do we approach a traffic queue on the motorway or highway, having chosen to ignore an inner voice that said we should come off the junction before we hit the back of the tail? We realise too late that we should have trusted our instincts to avoid the traffic.

Somewhere, amidst the ‘noise’ of things going on around us, our natural instincts can help us make good choices.

Resilience creates history

Another of my great loves – other than resilience – is history. It fascinates me!

One of my favourite historians is Dr Lucy Worsley (@Lucy_Worsley). I avidly watch her programmes. She is articulate, knowledgeable and expressive in her love and passion for history. Regardless of the subject she’s covering, there is always an element of how - over the course and years of conflict, challenge and development - people are resilient. No matter what took place. As a species we are designed to adapt as we go.

The truth is, whether we factor it into the plan or not, people will use their instincts even when there are procedures to follow. Regardless of what us resilience professionals tell them to do.

We are the history makers of tomorrow. A hundred years from now people will learn about how we developed resilience. They’ll learn about how we advanced technology. What that meant to learning. They will find out about our robust, well thought through plans. How much of history will be created because of us? And how much is our instinctive decisions, based upon an inner wisdom that goes beyond the text books and logic of the day?

The author

Paul KudrayAn international leader in business resilience consultancy, training and coaching; Paul Kudray, MSc FICPEM CBCI AMBCI Fellow of the EPC, is an ex-emergency services commander who finished an exemplary 32 year career in the UK healthcare sector, working for the NHS - culminating in 7½ years as the Director of Resilience for one of the world’s largest ambulance services, NWAS NHS Trust. He now works with private and public sector clients around the world, training, advising, coaching and mentoring them at the highest levels about emergency and business continuity management. Paul's company is KCLContact Paul at or via LinkedIn 

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