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Act on Red Flags – Listen to Your Gut

Red Flag Every time I ignore the red flags I see when interviewing a candidate, or when I feel an employee is struggling, or a project is off track, I pay the price. Every single time.

You interview a candidate whose commute will be 75-minutes each each way, but she says she likes to drive. Sure, until it snows. Move on. You haven’t gotten an update from a project team in over a month, but this group is typically reliable, so things are probably fine. Check in. Even the most diligent employees need accountability and attention.
They call them red flags for a reason. If you suspect a problem, there likely is one. Don’t just wait and ‘see how things go.’ Make a hard decision, get more information, or get involved. Wait and see is often a recipe for disaster.
Sometimes we don’t get involved because we don’t have the time or want to focus on other things. Other times we just don’t trust or listen to our gut.

Trust yourself.

I usually know what I want and need to do, both personally and professionally. Yet I tend to ask LOTS of people for their opinions of what I should do. I solicit advice from friends and colleagues, and in the end, I usually do whatever I want. Why not just trust that I know the right thing to do and just do it? Dad, are you reading this? See, I listen. My dad tells me all the time to stop soliciting opinions, I often ignore anyway, and just act.

Here are a six steps you can take to help listen to yourself and ensure you don’t overlook or ignore red flags:

1. Become very clear about your desired outcome. Decide what you want.
2. Eliminate distractions. Get quiet, aka, still your mind.
3. Think about the situation at hand. Weigh the facts and your options.
4. Decide without belaboring.
5. Act on your decision.
6. Don’t look back. Your initial decision is usually the right one.

Trusting and listening to ourselves can be hard. Perhaps it’s the fear of making a mistake or being wrong. Chances are you’re right. So pay attention to the red flags, trust yourself, and listen to your gut.


Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

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One Response to “Act on Red Flags – Listen to Your Gut”

  1. Great post. I am the veteran ” ask just one more person’s opinion” person. When I wanted to go to graduate school in HR, I asked lots of people. When I went to grad school in Environmental Health and Safety I asked 15 people. When I had doubts about a guy who seemed very interested in me but for months never asked me out, I asked 25 people why. I am just like you! I take everyone’s opinion in mind and consider all the facts and in the end, I always do and follow my gut. My gut does not lie to me, ever! My gut has no jealousy or ax to grind and is always available to listen and respond. I am also a firm believer in red flags. In my younger days I did not and was always “bitten in the rear end ” for not watching red flags. For the last 15 to 20 years I live and die by decision making when red flags go up ,and they do in all aspects of life. Red flags guide me in my career and decisions about people in various aspects of my life. Now, I thank the red flags for helping me make better decisions, not worse ones. And as Maya Angelou said ” people let you know who they are, believe them”. This is so true. When people suck when I first meet them, now I believe them, they really do suck and probably always will and are not worthy of my friendship in the long run.
    Happy Holidays, Shari!! Keep those common sense posts coming.

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