Sunday, August 01, 2004

Stress and decisiveness

S. gave me a wonderful insight when she observed that she appears decisive because she cannot tolerate chronic stress. The quickest way to remove the stress is to make a decision and move on.

This suggests that decisive people can tolerate acute stress, like the stress of making a decision, but not chronic stress, like an unresolved question.

On the other hand, people who can tolerate chronic stress probably function postponing decisions. They avoid the acute stress of making the decision, but can live with a lingering problem.

The "hard-charging executive" stereotype is to make a decision quickly and move on. This is not always the best strategy, particularly when a decision does not have to be made, and when waiting a little will bring new data with which to make a more informed decision.

In fact, executives in my experience come in both flavors - those who revel in decisions, and those who drag out the process as long as possible. I can now look at them and guess their stress profiles.

Different projects require different decision making styles - sometimes "impulsive" is better, sometimes "considered". An executive's stress handling profile will help predict which one is best for the job.

Conversely, some jobs require a tolerance for chronic stress. Putting a hyper-decisive person in charge here will cause unnecessary pain for all involved.

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