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Professional Development and the Power of Intuition in the Workplace

  • POSTED ON MAY 25, 2023
A man sitting on his desk contemplating

Professional development. It’s an area of focus for most leaders, both for themselves and for their teams. But are leaders leveraging all they can when it comes to intuition in the workplace?

Often, professional development tends to focus on tangible, visible skills. When it doesn’t focus on the visible, there’s still an element of clear definition and understanding of concepts. Areas of focus often include communication, management, staffing, projects, time, organization, or even conflict resolution. In all of these development areas, there’s a realization (or a suggestion) that building skills in these areas will build out leadership capacity.

 In deciding to focus on these areas, leaders are doing so from a place of empirical data. Usually, there’s some sort of inventory taken, or assessment completed, and based on the gaps that are revealed, development areas are selected. This seems like a very wise strategy. But is it revealing all of the stretch points and growth opportunities? Does empirical data give us all the information possible? From my vantage point, it does not.

Empirical data shows us – proves to us – what is right in front of our eyes and nothing more. What is in front of our eyes is definitely important; but it’s not all the data that’s available to us, and in choosing to limit our focus in this way, we inadvertently limit our growth potential. So where else can we look? What other sources of information are available to us, in order to ensure that we are truly developing all the areas necessary to our effectiveness? The answer might surprise you.


I know; intuition in the workplace is considered by many to be the land of the mystical, the magical or at best, the intangible. I would agree with the latter. Intuition isn’t something that you or I can quite put our fingers on. Nor can we really define the information gleaned from the place of intuition. Often, information that we source from the space of intuition feels inexplicable or unjustifiable. Phrases like, “I’ve just got a feeling…” or “My gut tells me…”. None of this, however, means that intuitive information is less meaningful than tangible information. In fact, information gleaned from the intuitive space can sometimes be more meaningful and quite reliable.

Professional Development Topics

Is there a way in which we can leverage intuition in  the workplace as a professional development topic or opportunity? I would argue that we can, and moreover that we should. I don’t “should” on folks very often. It can often feel like such a judgment to use the word should, and I am not a fan of judgment. In this case, however, I would assert that leaning into intuition more often, holding it not only as a possible skill, but a necessary one, can lead to more professional development topics within our leadership spaces.

So how do we develop our intuitive capacity as leaders, as teams, as humans? First and foremost, we need to start recognizing that the intuitive space is real and valid. We must learn to slow down and acknowledge those moments when we “just have a sense” or get a “gut feeling”. Oftentimes, slowing down is the biggest hurdle. Having learned to slow down, however, we can now tune our awareness into the space of intuition.

Take a moment with me and try this right now. Stop whatever you’re doing, wherever you are. Take a breath – and another. Close your eyes if you need to, or at least soften your gaze. As you breathe, ask yourself: what’s my most pressing “challenge” right now? As hokey as it might feel, let yourself listen for the answer. What does your gut say? This doesn’t have to make any sense at all in your logical brain. It likely won’t. That’s okay. What you’re doing is heightening your capacity to notice what information the space of intuition holds for you. And know this: no matter who you are, when you slow down and pay attention, the intuitive space does, in fact, have an answer for you, whether you understand it or not. Whether you can explain it, or not. Whether you like it, or not.

Let me ask you, as a leader, what would it take for you to step away from the empirical evidence for a minute or two, and look to the intuitive space for answers? What might become possible? What opportunities might reveal themselves? Can we consider intuition in the workplace as real and valid. 

The intuitive space is an untapped resource for professional development in the leadership landscape. There’s a two-fold opportunity here: the first is the development of intuitive capacity itself; the second, is to use that newly honed intuition to inform other PD opportunities. Instead of looking at the metrics, per se, to discern what PD one might need or what the team might need, imagine the creative options, the secret options, the never-before-recognized options that might reveal themselves when we look to this new information source.

Bottom-line: investing in ongoing professional development is necessary to elevate leadership capacity. Choosing what skills to focus on, and which areas of development to stretch doesn’t have to be limited to empirical data and tangible evidence. Recognizing intuition as both a valid skill to develop and a reliable source of information can serve leadership development in creative ways. It’s time to hold intuition in the workplace as an important professional development topic and opportunity in the leadership landscape.

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Written By

Gail Barker

It's time to stop the glorification of busy. Busy is NOT a marker of success. Living meaningfully, living with a sense of ease (which doesn't mean that life isn't hard), living with purpose -- these are the true markers of success, and they show up uniquely for every individual.

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