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What’s Your Decision-Making Style?

March 3, 2020

Does making a decision come easily to you or do you struggle to come up with the perfect solution? Everyone has a personal decision-making style, but that style may not always be the best one for your business. The most effective leaders use a combination of styles depending on the decision being made. Essentially, there are four decision-making styles.

1. Directive

Directive decision-making isn’t collaborative, so it isn’t the best choice in situations in which more research and other opinions are valuable — even critical — to your company’s success. Directive decision-makers often make quick, impulsive decisions based on their own knowledge and experience. At times this can work well, such as when deciding whether to continue working with a particular vendor, but at other times, directive decisions can be detrimental to your business, such as when deciding whether to commit to introducing a new product or service to the market.

If directive decision-making is your natural style, being mindful of the potential effect on others is key to being a more effective leader. To engage your team, build trust and encourage others to provide input. You can learn, for example, to delegate some decisions to others.

2. Analytic

Analytic decision-makers tend to make decisions slowly and with a great deal of thought. They seek input from others or their own observations and research before reaching a conclusion. Sometimes this type of decision-making turns into a situation in which no decision is made because there never is enough information or input. This can result in missed opportunities.

Analytic decision-makers need to remember that there generally is no one right decision. Suppose you manufacture slippers and you need to decide which of two new colors to offer this fiscal year. Both options are popular. You need to do your due diligence before deciding, but you also need to meet production deadlines. This is your dilemma: how much research can you do in the allotted time?

There are consequences to your process. If you include all slipper manufacturers and vendors, you might miss your deadline. If you limit your research to a finite number of direct competitors, you’ll have a broad overview of which color to produce this year but will have to factor some uncertainty into your decision.

Analytic decision-makers need to become comfortable with the fact that a certain amount of ambiguity will remain no matter how long you ponder a decision. Building in a guardrail like a deadline can keep you on track.

3. Conceptual

Conceptual decision-makers are big-picture thinkers who look at things from the 50,000-foot level. They look for patterns, and they want to know what the future looks like.

So, for example, as our slipper manufacturer researched the two slipper styles, she’d also look at the most popular paint colors for the year so she could factor that into her decision. She’d encourage the rest of her team to think creatively as well.

Long-term planning is innate to this type of thinking. Still, unknowns always can change the projected outcome, and the decision-maker needs to be comfortable knowing that creativity and agility always will be part of the business plan.

4. Behavioral

Behavioral decision-making is the most team-oriented of all four types because it considers the opinion of all team members. The goal is gaining consensus and harmony. Unlike with conceptual decision-making, however, creativity is not part of the process. Instead, the team is given a set group of proven options to consider, and they discuss the pros and cons of each in the context of the current business environment.

As with analytic decision-making, the process can go on for far longer than benefits the organization, so the leader needs to proactively guide the team to a decision.

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