leaders: let emotions drive the business decisions

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In our world of data-driven commerce, the emotional component of business–long  suppressed in many executive quarters–has found its moment in the spotlight. Finally.

In Only Human: The Emotional Logic of Business Decisions by FORTUNE Knowledge Group in collaboration with gyro, emotions have emerged as powerful new factors leaders are using to make long-term business decisions. It seems that leaders awash in data are going ‘old-school’ and once again giving credence to their gut instincts.

Furthermore, the study asserts that your company culture can be as compelling, or as off-putting, as your product offering, and it can be one of the primary reasons you win or lose business.

So heads up talent and business leaders–your culture has further-reaching implications than you may have thought.

Strong Reputations & Cultures Win

Choosing a business partner means choosing the people with whom you want to work. More than half of the executives preferred to do business with companies that nurture “a strong company culture committed to shared goals” and place strong value on “respect for employees demonstrated by management.”

When choosing a business partner, company reputation was the most influential factor in leaders’ decision-making. “We know that there’s a really strong relationship between companies that provide high-quality products and services and those that have a strong reputation for an engaged workforce,” says Peter Fasolo, VP Global HR at Johnson & Johnson. 

Human Factors are the Deciding Factors

Data is undoubtedly a powerful tool for executives, delivering them greater analytical depth than ever before. However, despite vast pools of information, the emotional still precedes the rational when it comes to business decisions. 65% of executives surveyed believed subjective factors that can’t be quantified (including company culture and corporate values) increasingly make a difference when they’re evaluating business partners.

Analytics may inform, but emotions compel action.

Leaders from FORTUNE’s World’s Most Admired Companies® and Best Companies to Work For®  lists support the survey’s emotion-first findings. In fact, the qualities revealed–powerful company cultures, strong relationships in the marketplace and a penchant for trust-based relationships–tend to be the same qualities that have helped these companies achieve their positions on the two lists. 

Executives Trust Their Gut

Ironically, an unimaginable deluge of information has inspired a significant majority of executives to embrace their Id–to lean in and trust a more innate approach to decision-making.

Senior leaders have come to count on, and value, a heady mix of intangibles to guide them in a world overflowing with information. In fact, two-thirds of the executives said it’s often necessary to rely on gut feelings and soft factors (which they believe should be given the same weight as hard factors) and decisions shouldn’t be made on purely ‘functional factors,’ such as cost, quality, or efficiency.

These emotional insights enhance data interpretation and executives agreed that when making decisions, human insights must precede hard analytics. Truly mindful leaders must also be careful not to selectively seek data merely to justify or confirm their instincts.

Long-Term Partnerships with Trusted Organizations is the Goal

Interestingly, most executives want to seek partners with cultures and qualities similar to those they aspire to–even if they haven’t quite achieved those qualities themselves–and are willing to sacrifice immediate bottom-line gain in favor of long-term liaisons with organizations they trust.

By michelle m. smith, CPIM, CRP
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