As a manager, how do you deal with choice stress?

Kenneth Smit editors 23-08-2019

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Everybody suffers from choice stress every now and then. But, for managers, this can be very annoying. It can also lead to poor performance. Many managers hiccup against making choices. They don't dare to make a decision, often because of an uneasy feeling: not having all the necessary information at their disposal. We also often go into micromanagement because we want to be able to understand our choices in detail. This is especially the case with managers who have filled in a specialism before growing into a management role. We also want to keep everyone in our team and all other external stakeholders satisfied, which can also cause choice stress. In this blog we share some tips that we have experienced in practice and that can help you alleviate your choice stress.

Are you a maximizer or satisficer?

When talking about choice stress, it is important to first find out what kind of person you are. In many cases, self-knowledge is already part of the solution. We distinguish two types of people: the 'maximizers' and the 'satisficers'. Maximizers are always looking for the best solution and continue to do so. Satisficers are satisfied with a good solution to the problem encountered, but are not looking for the best possible solution. Not entirely surprisingly, research by Swarthmore College in California showed that Satisficers are happier in life. For managers it is important to have a healthy dose of satisficer at their disposal, otherwise making choices becomes very difficult. Of course that doesn't mean that you have to make unsubstantiated decisions. A few tips at a glance.

Accept that the perfect choice does not always exist

However difficult it may be, we have to accept that the perfect choice does not always exist. Too much perfectionism can cause you to keep on weighing things up forever. Certainly in your role as a manager, it is often important that you make a well-considered choice on the information you have at your disposal. That is not always perfect, deal with it.

Get informed

Delegating is and always will be difficult. When you have the feeling that you don't know or understand certain details, it makes you feel unsatisfying and stressful. And yet it is an important quality of managers to be able to put one's own discomfort aside and trust the information that others offer you. Recognize that there are specialists in your company with more, better and more complete information. Be informed, be vulnerable.

Reduce your options

The problem with making decisions is often that the options only expand as more information is available. So it's a reverse funnel. The crux in making sound decisions, however, is to reduce your options as much as possible. Determine the starting points for yourself beforehand and test all options against those starting points. If there is no 100% match, remove the option in question from your list until you have only 1 or 2 left.

Dare to make a decision, choices are rarely final.

As I said, we often hate making the final decision; for fear of doing it wrong, or for fear of achieving something that will have a lasting negative impact. However, choices you make are rarely final or irreversible. Do not overestimate the impact of your management decisions. Dare to make a decision, even if you don't have all the information you need. In line with the increasingly popular agile project methodologies, most of your decisions can still be agile if necessary.

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