There is room for intuition in business, and it can lead us to better decisions and better results. This is what Dean Newlund explores in his podcast, The Business of Intuition. Dean is the CEO of Mission Facilitators International, a training and development firm that offers leadership development programs to medium to large organizations nationally and worldwide. Dean is a student of intuition. His passion is to get intuition out of the closet and into the boardroom. With host Domenic Rinaldi on the show, he explains why we don’t use intuition as much as we should and why it pays to pay attention to it a little bit more.
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The Business Of Intuition With Dean Newlund
Intuition is considered a form of knowledge that reveals itself in our consciousness, absent the more formal methods of deliberation. I’ve read somewhere that intuition is not magical but rather a faculty in which hunches are generated by the unconscious mind rapidly shifting through past experiences and cumulative knowledge. Often referred to as gut feelings, intuition tends to arise holistically and quickly without awareness of the underlying mental processing of information. I know for me, when I trust and listen to my intuition during deals and other areas of my life, it has always served me well. Dean Newlund is a student of intuition. It’s a topic he speaks and writes about extensively. He’s the CEO of Mission Facilitators International, a training and development firm that has helped leaders, teams, and organizations reach their potential through executive coaching, training, strategic planning, and transforming company culture. They work with medium to large organizations nationally and worldwide. Dean launched his own podcast, The Business of Intuition. In 2019, he spoke about intuition at a TEDx event in Bend, Oregon. Dean, welcome to the show. I’m looking forward to helping our audience understand how intuition can help them during their M&A transactions.
It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Dean, maybe start off with a little bit more about your background. How did you get to the topic of intuition being something that appears to be your life’s mission?
It didn’t happen all at once. It seems to have built up over time. That partly came through my upbringing and my family. The message around the dinner table was to follow your gut. What is it that you feel? When I went through graduate school, I got a degree in acting. In that particular period of my life, there was so much about your own self-awareness and being able to understand the motivations of yourself and other people. When I started this company, Mission Facilitators International, it seemed to be not a typical fit, but a very good fit in terms of coaching and training. I know that at one point, it struck me that there was something to this intuition. I remember distinctly having this decision to either stay in Minneapolis and continue to be around family after a divorce and deciding to quit a job, then there was this voice in me that said I needed to move to Seattle, Washington. It didn’t quite make a lot of sense. I even had family members say, “What? Are you crazy? Why would you want to go to Seattle where you don’t have any support? You have no business prospects other than this idea to start this new company. Why not stay where you have family, friends, and resources?” I went, “I know. It makes no sense.”
I remember having this conversation with my dad. I said, “I get it, Dad. I know you’re probably freaking out about your son up and running out and going into Seattle.” The timing was important because when I finally landed in Seattle and started getting myself acclimated, I ended up meeting, which later became my wife. We become fast friends and soul mates, so to speak. That’s when the business started to take off. There was this sense of like I had a feeling that I needed to do this and it didn’t make any sense at the time, but I am glad I did it. There have been several times when big decisions didn’t at first have any data to support it that later I realized were the right ones. When the topic of doing a TED Talk came up, I thought this is something that is useful as an actual superpower that we all have that we may not always trust and have the courage to use. I see this all the time in boardrooms and with CEOs. The people often are not asked to participate because they’re not subject matter experts, but when you open up that engagement to include hunches, you have the more creative, innovative, and engaged business people when they are allowed that space to go on a hunch and to talk from that perspective.
I couldn’t agree more. I have learned to rely on my intuition and gut feeling. When I don’t is when I get myself into trouble. You referenced maybe everybody having intuition. Does everybody have intuition? Are there people who maybe don’t have it and they’re not connected with it?Intuition is a superpower that we don’t always have the courage to use. Click To Tweet
Everybody has a left hand and a right hand unless you’ve been born without one. Your normal makeup as a human being does allow you to access your intuition. It may not be that your style and your preference is to go there. I do believe from a real basic neurological perspective, we all have the right side of the brain. In basic terms, that’s the more creative, innovative, intuitive side, where the left side is more analytical and data focus. We all have intuition. Do we all have the familiarity with it? Do we listen to it? No. Is it there as a tool? Yes.
Is intuition something that can be developed? Is it another type of skill that we all have that you can develop and hone it?
Absolutely. There are a lot of things that can get in the way of us being intuitive. The way that I believe we can increase that trust and work that muscle is to do a few things to be able to tap into that. One of them is to be present. It’s to get yourself into a state of not going into what’s going on in the future and what’s going in the past, but bringing the mind to the present and bringing yourself back into your body. The interesting thing about intuition is it doesn’t have a language. Data, facts and information have language, but intuition doesn’t have a language. It has a feeling. That’s why sometimes it’s hard to access it. Being present is one way we can get ourselves to access that part of ourselves that is called intuition.
Do you have an example that you can point to intuition maybe from yourself or you’ve experienced it?
In our coaching with executives, you’ll sit down and you’ll talk and they’ll want to get into all the things that are going on. Let’s say there’s an employee issue, a strategy issue, or a board member issue. We can talk around the topic for a long period of time, but then sometimes we’ll simply say, “What does your gut say about this? What do you know about this?” It’s such a ubiquitous part of what we do that oftentimes people need to have their facts and information justify what they already know. Once you allow them to see the connection, then the intuitive side starts to take on a greater part of their decision-making. I’m not saying that we should not be the database. We should. We have to make sound decisions and businesses are run on facts, information, spreadsheets and scorecards. That’s fine. That is the language of business. The language of business is not intuition. I believe that it can include intuition as a way to be able to make us more innovative, creative, and engage more people in discussions. It’s like if you were out to buy a brand-new car and you found out that you were only using 2 cylinders out of 8, you might go, “I like to use the other six.” Intuition is the other six. If there’s more information, pattern recognition, and opportunities, then I believe we sometimes give ourselves the chance to access.
How can you tell intuition apart from maybe your personal agenda? You’ve set in your mind that you want something to happen. How do you know that it’s not your personal agenda taking over your decision-making versus it’s truly your intuition?
The agenda could well be your ego. Your ego often is playing a role to keep you in control over your perspective, your desires, your wants, and your needs. When intuition is tuned-in and you’ve tapped into it, it overrides that. It is going to be a certain enough feeling that might come about in your gut. Some people feel it in their gut. They might feel it in some sort of a sense of knowing. Usually, intuition is akin to a certain kind of truth. I heard somebody described this to me that when you are tapped into truth, whatever that is, there is a sense of release. There is a feeling of slight calm that comes over you. It doesn’t mean the outside world changes. You still may have whatever issues you have, but you’ve now tapped into what is so or what is the truth of the matter. Intuition is that feeling that I’m now on the tip of the pen or the needle. This is where it’s should be. Once we get to that, all sorts of other things start to open up.
It’s interesting because in my world where we help people buy and sell businesses, I see this happen a lot with buyers, where the facts are such that maybe they should be going forward with the process. They defy all odds. They ignore their intuition. They move forward in spite of probably what their gut is telling them. Why does that happen? Does that mean somebody is not in tune with their intuition?
We’re creatures of habit and comfort. Change is not easy. The brain is set up that it wants to stay to a certain degree and a stasis mindset. It wants to have things to be consistent. If your intuition is giving you information that you need to change and your mental database side of your personality says, “I don’t want to change. I’m scared. This feels too risky,” that’s where you have these disjointed parts of yourself battle it out.
How does that manifest itself? When you’re battling, what are you typically doing at that point? Are you indecisive? How does that manifest itself when that battle occurs?
This is a personal story. I was married once before. You wanted an example. I probably should have given you a business example, but here’s a personal example. I had fallen in love with this gal right out of college and long story short, there were plans for marriage. I remember walking down some alleyway right before the wedding was going to take place. We were doing it outside. Every part of me said, “This doesn’t feel right. I don’t know what’s going on here, but this didn’t feel like the right thing to do.” In all honesty, I knew much earlier on that it was the wrong thing to do but I kept putting it off. I wanted to please her. I wanted to please her mother. I wanted to please my parents. I had grandparents that flew out to do this.
There was a lot of pressure to do what it was that I said I was going to do. I’m a guy that follows through with things. If I make a commitment, I’m going to do it. Sometimes I make commitments that even are against my intuition because I said I was going to do it. My values around commitment were going in counter to my intuition. That’s hard because we value to serve people. We value to get work done. We value to make money for our families. We do all these things because of our values, but our intuition sometimes says, “In this case, if you go down that path, you might make a wrong decision.” That’s what happened to me. I remember once the marriage happened, it was clear within a matter of days that it was not the right thing to do. It probably lasted for about another year. Everybody in my family and friends said, “We knew this was the wrong thing.” I’m thinking like, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Why didn’t you stand up during the service?” I’ve heard this same example at least a dozen times from other people, maybe even more. I’m probably not counting all the times I’ve heard it, but that example is an interesting one. In a business context, probably people protecting their calendars is another one. You accept meetings or you commit to something that you probably know you shouldn’t be committing to some meeting or event or some speaking engagement. Your intuition is telling you not to but for some other reason, you feel a commitment to do those things.
It’s a great line of questioning because we don’t want conflict. We don’t want to disappoint people. If we were to tap into that intuitive voice, would we be accepting those calendar notices? Would we be taking on these extra projects? Would we hire that person because your boss told you that you should, even though you know you shouldn’t? Would we be buying this business? Would we be getting involved with this particular person in a marriage? All these things are presented to us. We want to serve and we want to be a good person. Yet we might be going against what we know to be true. I think that if we are more intuitive, we’re going to make much better decisions. We’re going to be serving ourselves better. By virtue of doing that, we will serve other people much better. We feel guilty about it and we realized, “It was stupid. Why did I do this?” We then try harder to do more of the same the next time versus like, “The lesson learned here was you knew a long time ago that you shouldn’t have done this yet you keep going back and doing the same pattern over and over again.” It then becomes almost like a behavioral addiction. We’re like, “This is how we do things.”
It makes perfect sense. Dean, this is a show that’s focused on mergers and acquisitions and our audience are sellers and professionals that help people buy and sell businesses. How can you take this knowledge and this concept of intuition into the mergers and acquisitions world when people are faced with making big financial decisions? Many times, it is the largest financial decision that somebody will make in their lifetime. What role can intuition play as they contemplate buying or selling businesses, and even advisers as they’re advising their clients?
I want to talk about first the stellar. It was something that you told me when I had interviewed you in my podcast, The Business of Intuition. You had mentioned that 75% of the people that sell their businesses feel some remorse.
That’s true. Let me put some context to that. This was from an independent study that I didn’t see the results to, but it was presented to me at a conference. The results of this straw poll were 75% of owners were remorseful not about the amount of money or the consideration they were paid for the business, but more around what they did or weren’t doing after the sale. They didn’t have the next thing. They felt lost after the sale of the business.
If that’s the case, then I want to use that as the example of a person who has sold a business, maybe made some good money in the process, but later has that remorse that you talked about. My sense is that if they were tuned into themselves during the whole process of selling, they probably had little indications that there was something that they weren’t paying attention to, and that remorse was already beginning to happen prior to the sale. We already knew somewhere if we were paying attention that I haven’t answered the question, what am I going to do after I sell this business? That sense of loss, that relationship and that identity.
I don’t know the people that you work with per se, but the concept around feeling remorse after something has happened, my sense is they probably had some clues that were going to be the case long before that happened. What does this all mean in terms of how does this affects people in buying and selling businesses? I love your process. I’m talking to you in my podcast and going through your website and seeing the questionnaires that you have, the eBooks, and all the stuff that you have is unbelievable. I’m deeply impressed by how well you’ve been able to lay out a process for people to buy and sell. It’s tremendous. I’m going to refer people to you. What you do is spot on. How does intuition add to this? If people are not going through your steps, which they should, is to keep checking in with themselves. How does this feel? Does this seem right?
Don’t get into the numbers. Let go of that spreadsheet, but how does it feel to be contemplating to buy this business? I’ve bought real estate before in the past, not businesses, but apartments and houses and so forth. There were times when I bought something and I went, “It makes perfect sense on paper. There’s a good ROI. The payback period is perfect, but something doesn’t feel right.” The times that I have bought those businesses, I paid for it later. Sometimes not necessarily financially, but through the amount of time, work, and heartache that it caused me. Not to discount what this data-based perspective and process are all about. It’s so important. It’s just to say, “Don’t just use that. Is there something about your pattern recognition that intuition helps you see? Is there something that doesn’t feel right? Look into those areas and if you have a sense of peace and it feels right, then go with it, then your data, your facts, your process all backs that up.
The same message applies to buyers even though you spoke about sellers. We talk a lot about motivation and I’m trying to connect the dots to see if the motivation is the same, but it’s not. You may be motivated, but your intuition could be still telling you something different. Motivation is motivation to buy or sell a business. The motivation could be there, but if your intuition is telling you that this isn’t the right situation or the right buyer or the right business to buy, you have to follow that. You could still be motivated, but your intuition can be telling you something different.
A bad analogy, but I was at the ophthalmologist not that long ago. I have contacts. You go through those little eye tests where they say, “Put your right hand over your left eye,” and so on and so forth. “Can you read the numbers on the back of the wall?” When you put all of your contacts out and your normal glasses out, you can’t read much. You can maybe see the top line. In some ways, your analytical side can see certain things and do them well. You can see the big numbers. What intuition does is it starts to help you pick up patterns and information that the conscious mind can’t always see. There’s more to look into. There’s a greater view than what you had before. I can now see the small numbers of the bottom of the page, not just the top. All of them are important, but they access you in different ways. One through analytical thinking and language, and the other way more through your body and through your gut.If we are more intuitive, we're going to make much better decisions. Click To Tweet
Dean, I’m fascinated by what you do. It’s an untapped resource that not enough of us are in touch with. I’ve learned to be more in touch with it as I’ve gotten older. I’ve got the scars to show where I didn’t pay attention. Hopefully, if you get enough scars, you start paying attention to your intuition. It’s interesting, I met somebody in a coaching environment who specifically talked about intuition to us so I think you’re on to something. Tell our audience a little bit more about how you approach clients, some of the things that you offer and can do for people to help them not only to be a better owner, manager, leader but build a better culture. It sounds like this concept permeates an organization.
It does. Our name is Mission Facilitators International. The word mission is important, not a mission from a religious perspective but from, what is our purpose? What are we here to do as a company? What is our highest and best service to each other, our stakeholders, our shareholders, and the community at large? That’s extremely important. There’s an interesting book that’s coming out that talks about a purpose mindset versus a growth mindset.
We’ve been in a growth mindset for a while. I’m certainly fine with that, but that’s more about how do we get more products out to the market? A purpose mindset is more like, how do we serve the market? How do we serve each other? It’s almost like a triple bottom line scorecard concept. How do we make sure that the community, as well as the employees, the stakeholders and the shareholders have a more holistic perspective? We’re focused on mission and purpose. We make sure that everything we do lines up with that. Whether it’s working with executives and helping them become high performers whether we’re onboarding a new person into a company, whether we’re working with boards of directors, like strategic planning, training development, and large-scale culture change work. It’s focused on maximizing human potential through work.
Because we spend much of our time at work, even though now it’s virtual, it is the biggest social arena for change that we have in most cases. Sometimes more so than our families, our churches and so forth because we spend much time there. There’s so much happening at work. If we can master this thing called work and the interactions with human beings in this thing called work, whether that be buying and selling businesses, whether it be writing code for Microsoft. We have this ability to make some massive and wonderful changes to the overall society in which we live. That’s the game that I want to play. I want to play about working with change agents, thought leaders, and industry leaders who are certainly wanting to do the money and make the money that they need to. It is the lifeblood of what makes a business run so that it also creates this greater ripple effect. It changes the lives of the people that they touch.
Dean, it’s been such a pleasure to have you here. This has been a treat for me because I’m a naturally curious person. I feel like this whole exploration, my prep for the interview around intuition took me to a different place. I feel like I’ve learned something new. Every day when you’re learning something new is a great day. Dean, if people wanted to get in touch with you. How could they reach you?
Our website is MFILeadership.com, and then the podcast is called The Business of Intuition. We have got a plethora of people who are showing up on that. Thank you so much for being my guest there. I’ve had CEOs that have come on. I’ve had scientists, authors, doctors, naturopaths. We’ve even had a few artists and all of them coming at this perspective around intuition from different lenses and for phenomenal stuff that’s coming out of it. I’m trying to get intuition out of the closet and into the boardroom. I want this to be something that we don’t feel like it’s like this thing you do that’s woo-woo. This isn’t scientific. There are books and literature on this. There was something I read from a journal somewhere that the higher up you go in an organization, the more intuitive you become or you should become. There’s data that says that intuitive leaders make better decisions, which then produce better ROI for their stakeholders. It’s out there and I want to be one of those people that gets the word out.
I’m glad you’re pursuing that. I believe in it. I know when I haven’t followed my intuition that it has always left a scar. Thanks for being on. I appreciate it.
Thank you for having me.
M&A Unplugged Community, if you would like to learn more about the process of acquiring or selling a business, take our free buyer or seller assessments at K2Adviser.com. These assessments will tell you how ready you are for a potential sale or acquisition. I look forward to seeing you again in the next episode. Until then, please remember that scaling, acquiring or selling a business takes time, preparation, and the proper knowledge.
About Dean Newlund
Dean Newlund is founder and CEO of Mission Facilitators International, a boutique training and development firm based out of Phoenix Arizona, with the sole purpose of helping organizations become more connected to their purpose and their people. Founded 1992, MFI is home to more than a dozen professional coaches, trainers, and strategic planning facilitators. Unlike most other firms where consultants work with their own clients, MFI members work as a team to facilitating growth for leaders and organizations. As a skilled facilitator, coach and trainer, Dean help teams behave with the discipline found in successful companies and to help companies behave with the supportive culture found in effective teams. His training and development firm has helped leaders, team and organizations reach their potential through executive coaching, training, strategic planning and transforming company culture. They work with medium to large organizations nationally and worldwide. Dean recently launched his own podcast: The Business of Intuition, and last year he spoke at a TEDX event in Bend, Oregon.
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