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The fine art of management

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As a young man obsessed with driving rapid sports cars (often far too rapidly), I considered myself very fortunate to have my very own mechanic who would regularly tune my latest “beasts” to perfection. He was a genius, and to watch him go about his work — which was his obsession — was an honor and a privilege. He rarely lifted the hood until he was ready to perform his magic. Instead, he would just listen — not unlike the way a master piano tuner listens carefully to the notes being played.

I knew this mechanic well; he was my father. And he was one of the most intuitive people I have ever known.

Very occasionally, I have witnessed the same thing in my business life, but sadly, it has been far too rare. It is that trait that distinguishes the great manager or leader from the merely good.

Intuition means feeling rather than merely seeing or hearing. We are completely in tune with our team. We understand each of them on a very deep level. We know what motivates them. We are able to stimulate and goad them in equal measure to reach optimum performance levels. As a consequence, we end up with a team capable of remarkable things.

Can anyone become an intuitive manager or leader? Yes, of course. I have always believed that if one person can do something, then anyone can — if he possesses sufficient desire.

Example? Up until that balmy May evening in 1954 at the Iffley Road track in Oxford, England, when Roger Bannister ran the mile in under four minutes, everyone believed it to be impossible. But later that same year, another 16 athletes also ran sub-four minutes, because Bannister had proved it possible.

In order to become a truly intuitive manager you first have to have an interest in people — a genuine interest. You need to genuinely care about them, too. Then you have to know and understand yourself well. You have to be comfortable and confident with who you are and with your management style.

When I communicate with my team (and in fact my clients’ teams, too) I listen for what is not said as much as what is. I understand and recognize gaps in written communication. I immediately note facial expressions, body posture and voice tone. I have honed and developed this skill over the years, and it has stood me in good stead. It is like a sixth sense, and I feel privileged to say I have it.

So, the next time you survey your team, ask yourself this question: Do I feel my team? Do I understand each of them — do I need to lift the hood to reach them? Or can I just listen and hear their imperfections, and then fine-tune them to reach peak performance levels? If the answer is yes, congratulations, you’re practicing the fine art of intuitive management.

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Jonathan Farrington is a globally recognized business coach, mentor, author, consultant and chairman of The JF Corporation and CEO of Top Sales Associates. For more information and tips from Jonathan, visit, or go to his blog at


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