The situation is one that any working woman will be familiar with: The Big Day looms. The meeting. The presentation. The 10-minute speech that could make or break your career, change your life. Your mouth is dry. Your stomach is nauseous. And yet you're unsure. You go through the motions, and you know to say the words but the indecisiveness is so close to the surface you can taste it. So, what's the solution? It’s one of the most commonly doled out nuggets of professional advice: “Go with your gut.” Trusting your gut is age-old advice for a reason: Your instincts are usually right. But in the business world, how important is it really to follow yours? How do we know when we should ignore the well-intended advice and go on what is often nothing more than that thing - the feeling, deep inside that cares not for reason or logic, but simply says, this is your shot. Don't overthink it. Just take it and run with it.
As we make the final preparations for our 2017 Businesswoman of the Year Awards, we asked some of the nominees in our Social Entrepreneur category exactly how important following their instincts have been in their extraordinary journeys so far:
Sometimes all you have are your instincts
"I believe that once you stay true to yourself, stay focused on what you are trying to achieve and why anything is possible. In my area, it's about levelling the playing field for people with Down Syndrome and challenging society to see beyond the syndrome through to the unique person in front of them. I truly believe that this is achievable through positive awareness and a change in people's perception. Sometimes people can tell you that the mountain is too high, but I have found that in doing the right thing for the right reasons makes following your instincts easier with more positive results."
Mary Doherty, President, Down Syndrome Ireland
"Instincts are important; I think they are shaped by your previous experience which is gained over time. We're constantly learning, re-evaluating and developing and this certainly helps to refine your instincts and to make better decisions as a business leader. However, in an environment like FoodCloud which is changing and growing all the time, I take great comfort in being surround by a great team and a supportive board. The board in particular, who include the original founders of the Bia Food Initiative (now FoodCloud Hubs), have been there to help us throughout our journey, so I'm grateful to have their counsel and guidance."
Iseult Ward, FoodCloud Co-founder and CEO
"I Wish was created because of the instinct of three businesswomen that girls were being inhibited in their subject and career choices, and who had a bit of bravery to do something about it. Our work with I Wish is in a volunteer capacity alongside our own busy careers, and I think when you are juggling a lot, you need to trust your instincts more than ever. The issue of girls in STEM is a complex one, and when faced with complexity, you also need to push the boundaries of your capabilities and take risks. It is the combination of instinct, risk and bravery that has seen 12,000 girls register for I Wish since its three-year inception."
Caroline O’Driscoll, Gillian Keating, Ruth Buckley, Directors, I Wish
"It is very important as over the years I have found that my instinct has proven beneficial. When making decisions or reflecting on a new idea, I would listen to my gut reaction. It is not always right, but it has stopped me from making knee-jerk reactions and encouraged me to weigh up all options."
Susan O’Dwyer, Chief Executive, Make-A-Wish Ireland
"I think it's vital to follow one's instincts regardless of the situation! Initially, before setting up Cliona's Foundation I wondered if there was an underlying issue in Ireland regarding the financial burden on parents’ shoulders when they find themselves in the unfortunate position having one of their children diagnosed with a life-limiting condition. My instinct told me that there has to be a problem of an epidemic level and further, there was no voice in Ireland for these families."
Terry Ring, Co-founder, Cliona’s Foundation