I have been completing incident investigations for 15 – 20 years and the first question I ask when starting and investigation is “How did you feel before you started the job?”.  Usually, I am met with a blank stare. I clarify… “Did you feel comfortable, did you feel prepared, were you ready to just get started?”  At least 80% of the time I am met with a response that starts with “Well…”  After that usually comes the “but…, but we were under pressure to get the job done, but the right equipment was left back at the workshop, but I saw someone do it this way before”.  These “but’s” are the things that kick us in the “butt”.

What has happened in most of these cases is the individual/team had ignored their gut instinct/s. You know that quirky urge, that funny tingle and or that little voice in your head. These are your gut feelings talking. But what are they telling you, and should you listen?

Most of us have experienced the sense of knowing things before we know them, even if we can’t explain how. One example is you hesitate at a green light and miss getting hit by a speeding truck. Another is, as per the above examples, you are about start a job or have started and something doesn’t feel right…

We need to get our teams listening to and trusting their first gut instincts. If they genuinely feel that some something is wrong… it usually is. The problem is, for many “but” reasons they choose not to listen to it and proceed on without further investigation to why their “gut instinct” has activated.

What we need to do when we feel something is wrong?

If our teams feel discomfort or conversely an inner conviction about something, we need them to understand they need to pay attention to their inner voice. We need to empower our teams that when something tells them a situation, a person or an outcome isn’t quite right, although on the surface nothing appears amiss, they can act on it accordingly. It’s too late when an incident occurs and you and the team are left wishing you had listened to your guts in the first place. Guts brilliantly process our food but they are also increasingly known as a “second brain”.

Test your gut feeling

We all need to take note of our gut feelings, ask questions and seek further information. We need to encourage our team to speak to their managers / supervisors and team members or do what’s necessary to find further information or come up with a solution they are comfortable with. Sometimes we’re presented with noticeable clues, so ask questions, double check, make changes if necessary and don’t let it pass.

Gut feeling – A term used when we can’t explain a certain crucial feeling or warning trying to tell us what decision we should make. Our gut feelings protect us from immediate danger. They are a part of our mammal instincts and frequently we discount them in favour of logic and society norms or we listen to the but’s inside our head… but we need to get the job done, but we have always done it this way….. or it is just easier to ignore them.

On a personal note, since my kids have been old enough to do things without us, my husband and I have been telling them that if their gut is telling them Mum and Dad wont like this when they are about to do something, pick up the phone and talk to us first.  They are 21 and 22 years old and have not caused us too much grief or got in too much trouble.

Listening to our gut instinct will stop incident and injuries…  If you act on it!