(Oral Bac 2014 G1-G2)
In 1969, as the ﬁrst Black Woman to earn an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, Lillian Lambert thought she was destined for a brilliant career advocating for social justice. But after a couple of failed jobs with federally funded programs, Lambert felt she'd make more headway as a businessperson. Her intuition pushed her into the cleaning industry, where she launched Centennial One Inc.., a commercial cleaning business. The company grew to $20 million in annual revenues and employed 1,200 people before Lambert sold it in 2001.
"When I went to work for a janitorial company [first as a consultant and later as a manager], I can't say it was because of the attractiveness of that particular industry", Lambert recalls. "l just had a feeling this was the place for me".
Karol Ward, a licensed psychotherapist based in New York City, says flashes of insight like the one that led Lambert into a successful yet unintentional career should be part of every businessperson's decision-making process, especially now as the economy continues to push many businesses into uncharted territory where they can no longer rely on what were once considered as solid business practices. "If we can trust more that there's a scientiﬁc basis to what we perceive, why not give that feeling a little bit of weight", she says. "Pay attention if feelings seem to appear out of the blue. Literally, sit with it. See if you can see what it means before discounting it".
Ward, likens the physical sensations or gut feelings to a primal language that can communicate vital urgings and warnings if we learn to listen to and interpret them. That was certainly the case when Lambert instinctively went out to fill a key position at her company. "It was an investment I didn't feel comfortable making, but I had an intuitive feelings she was the right person for the job", she recalls. "I had no guarantee it would pay off". But it did.
But remember, intuition enhances thoughtful decision-making; it doesn't replace it. "In business, you can't rely strictly on intuition", urges Lambert. "You have to deal with the facts of the situation too".
Adapted from Black Enterprise, November 2009
liken (verb): compare