Regardless of whether you’re a cut-and-dried decisionmaker or an overthinker, a solid chunk of leaders have found navigating the post covid era of the constantly evolving Covid-19 pandemic to be a choose-your-own-adventure exercise with the fun sapped out. An October 2021 study conducted by the American Psychological Association revealed that more than a third of Americans said the pandemic had made both simple and major decisions more stressful. While there’s no one silver bullet answer when it comes to handling pandemic-related decisiveness, some experts suggest that being more mindful and present can help ease the mental load. “Part of what I think people are dealing with right now is this cognitive overload, making all these decisions on a day-to-day basis,” clinical psychologist Alicia H. Clark, PsyD, told Oprah Daily. “We are in survival mode and our prefrontal cortex — which is responsible for judgment, planning and complex problem solving — doesn’t work as well when we’re in survival mode.
If you've ever been stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of indecision, you're not alone. According to new research, complex decisions don't just boggle our brains; they exhaust them, too. The study's authors say that this "decision fatigue" can lead to suboptimal choices in everything from what we eat to how we vote.
So why do we have such trouble making tough decisions? The answer, it turns out, is both behavioral and physiological. On the behavioral side, leaders often underestimate the effort required to make a decision, says Kevin da Silva-Castanheira, a graduate student who studies the psychology of decision-making at McGill University. "There's a lot of evidence behaviorally that suggests that people don't like making [preference or risk-based] decisions," he explains. "So, for example, when a decision is really hard, people tend to do things like stick to the status quo, or not even choose at all."
But it's not just our psychology that gets in the way of rational thinking; it's our biology, too. When we're considering a complex decision, our brains use up a lot of energy (in the form of glucose). And just like any other muscle in our body, when our brain gets tired, it doesn’t want to work.
In my coaching of high-level leaders, I am finding them struggling to push themselves to move past what's possible and consider solutions that are currently impossible. Leaders are under immense pressure to make decisions that will have far-reaching consequences. They often feel like they are stuck between a rock and a hard place, and it can be very difficult to find a way out.
The pandemic has brought a lot of challenges for leaders all around the world. They have to make difficult decisions in a constantly changing environment. This is where VUCA comes in. VUCA is an acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. It's a framework that can be used to describe the current state of the world. Leaders who are able to navigate through this VUCA world will be able to unlock new potential in their decision-making process.
Here are some tips on how to do this:
- Be adaptable: Things are constantly changing, so you need to be able to adapt quickly.
- Be aware of your own bias: We all have our own biases, so it's important to be aware of them and how they might impact your decisions.
- Be inclusive: When making decisions, try to include as many people as possible so that you can get different perspectives.
- Be clear and concise: In a VUCA world, things can get very confusing very quickly. So it's important to be clear and concise in your communication.
By understanding and preparing for these challenges, leaders can make decisions that are both agile and informed. In a post pandemic world, those who are able to navigate these challenges will be the ones who emerge victorious.
By Dean Miles
Keywords: Business Continuity, Entrepreneurship, Startups