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New Managers Navigate Uncertainty with Difficulty
If you thought decision-making was a challenge before, what do you think about the difficulty of making sound decisions now? With the global pandemic, wildfires on the West Coast, and storms in the Gulf, it sures feels like a period of heightened uncertainty and stress. And the impact of stress on decision-making is not to be taken lightly.

In fact, a 2012 experiment published by the National Institutes of Health showed that people under chronic stress continue to rely on habitual choices instead of adjusting behavior and focusing on desired outcomes.  To thrive, we all need to find a way to navigate change and uncertainty, to find a path that leads us out of a sense of futility and decision paralysis.

3 Best Practices to Help New Managers Navigate Uncertainty
Here are three tips from our new manager training on how to come to careful, reasoned decisions as a people manager even in these unprecedented times:

  1. Be Aware of Cognitive Biases
    First, be aware of how your environment and biases can mislead you. One bias that seems to trip up too many new managers during a time of crisis is overweighting items or information that are more prominent, conspicuous, or otherwise noticeable compared with its surroundings. Also called saliency bias, this mistake leads new manager to ignore potentially important perspectives and to make suboptimal decisions.

    To combat this common new manager bias, pay attention to what leads you to distinguish one aspect of your decision-making from another and try to give attention to lenses which you may habitually deprioritize.

  2. Create Goal Clarity
    Any good decision starts with goal clarity – What specifically do you want to accomplish? Why is it important compared to other priorities?  Why is it urgent?  How will success and failure be measured?

    Once your goals are clear and agreed to by your key stakeholders, you can then identify what matters most to understand the situation and make a good decision. For example, if your goal is to safely bring your team back into the office during COVID-19 in order to complete a critical project, you’d need to have information on such matters as:  whether or not they are considered “essential,” what the regulations are in your specific geography, whether the team can continue to be productive online, how you could ensure they adhere to proper safety precautions both in and out of the office, etc.

  3. Gather Some Answers
    Once you know the most critical questions to answer, it is time to fill in the picture with some answers. In the example above, do your research to find out the current safety guidelines in your area. Poll your team to find out their issues, concerns, and opinions. Think about steps you could take to reconvene in person safely. Or start from ground zero to determine if there are ways you all can get the job done remotely.

The Bottom Line
A manager’s role requires making decisions that support the team and the business. None are made with a guarantee of the outcome; there are too many uncertainties. But if you follow a step-by-step process, you can pay attention to the type of data that can inform a sound decision and focus on what you do know.

To learn more about how to help new managers navigate uncertainty, download The Top 5 Decision-Making Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs


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