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The Women Making Decisions panel, from left to right: Leslie Carroll ’08, Melissa Lagowski, Emily Dreke and Julieanna Richardson.

Women Making Decisions panel

The power of business intuition

‘Gut instinct tempered by numbers’ is often the key to wise decisions, women business leaders say

By Cheryl SooHoo

4/11/2012 -
Carol Bernick, CEO of Polished Nickel Capital Management
Carol Bernick, CEO of Polished Nickel Capital Management, delivered the keynote address at the Women Making Decisions event on March 28.
Making sound business decisions means listening to your gut as well as your head.

That was some of the wisdom shared by a panel of distinguished female speakers invited by the Kellogg Women’s Business Association to explore the topic of “Women Making Decisions” on March 28. The discussion and networking luncheon featured four successful women from the nonprofit, entertainment and marketing and consulting worlds.

The panelists observed that intuition rooted in facts frequently serves them well. “I am often motivated by gut instinct that is tempered by numbers, because numbers don’t lie,” said Julieanna Richardson, founder and executive director of The HistoryMakers, an archival collection of interviews with African-Americans.

As a manager for consulting firm Bain & Company, speaker Leslie Carroll ’08 noted that spot-on hunches must rely on solid knowledge and experience. “Leading clients in the direction we think they should go in a very short consulting timeframe is a unique marriage of instinct, high-level data collection, and just the general sense that we have [of what will work.]”

The panelists offered additional tips on developing good decision-making skills, including:

Reach out to others. Asking for input and observing what has worked or not worked with other high-level decision makers can help clarify the path to take. “As leaders, it’s important to share what we’ve learned and work collectively to make the world a better place,” said Melissa Lagowski, founder and a principal with Chicago-based event planning company Big Buzz Idea Group.  

Participate on boards. Whether in the nonprofit or corporate realm, boards of directors contribute a great deal to the decision-making process. “I’ve made tremendous contacts and expanded my network,” said Richardson. “Board experience is part of the overall professional development experience.”

Stick to your convictions. Risks come with any decision — good or bad. Emily Dreke of the Chicago Foundation for Women urged women to not be dissuaded by the possibility that their ideas might not be approved. “An important element of decision-making is having no apologies afterwards,” said Dreke, director of development and communications for the grant-making organization.

Celebrating Women’s History Month, the morning conference began with a keynote address on high-profile decision-making by Carol Bernick, CEO of Polished Nickel Capital Management. Formerly executive chair of Alberto-Culver Company, Bernick also chairs the board of Northwestern Memorial Healthcare in Chicago.