Decision-Making Styles

Every day you make decisions. No matter how simple or complex the issue, you have a method for arriving at each decision. Have you ever considered the steps you take to choose where to eat lunch? What about whether or not it’s time to change jobs?

Believe it or not, you follow a process for every choice you make. You may not follow the same steps to arrive at every decision, but you do use at least one decision-making process every time you choose one option over another. Everybody does, and what’s more, is that everybody has their own decision-making styles.

What is Decision-Making?

Decision-making is the method you use to choose between two or more things. It can be as basic as picking between two shirt colors, or far more complex, like how to market a new product.

Simple choices are made so quickly that you may not register the steps taken to arrive at a decision. You still weighed options to arrive at your choice, but some decisions are so ingrained that we no longer break them into steps. These are generally our day-to-day choices, like what to wear and what to eat.

Complex choices involve more thought. It can mean addressing a problem with several parts, like creating a marketing plan. Or, it can be answering a life-altering question, like changing jobs. Complex choices generally involve a four-step process.

  • Identify the issue.
  • Create a list of possible solutions to the issue.
  • Identify the best solution to the issue.
  • Take action based on the chosen solution.

What is a Decision-Making Style?

A decision-making style is the way you process information to choose your solution. People often associate decision-making styles with personality traits because they are closely tied to an individual’s characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses.

It is necessary to understand that personality traits and decision-making styles are not the same things. However, your personality traits influence how you make decisions.

Why Is It Important to Know Your Decision-Making Style?

Understanding your decision-making style is a tool to help, especially with big decisions that can be daunting and stressful. Having insight into your decision-making processes gives you more control and confidence to make a choice.

Decision-making styles also impact dynamics in the workplace. The way managers and employees make decisions and how well their styles mesh can affect how an organization performs. Decision-making influences efficiency in an organization and contributes to workplace satisfaction.

How to Determine Your Decision-Making Style

There are many assessments to determine your decision-making style. They rely on your answers to questions about how you approach issues and what’s important to you. Your responses determine where you fall on the two spectrums of decision-making.

Do You Prefer More Structure or Flexibility?

The first spectrum asks you how much detail you require for a job. Do you need defined roles, expectations, and processes, or do you crave more flexibility and freedom in your day? These are two extremes on a sliding scale, but determining where you fall on the spectrum affects how you make decisions.

People who are on the structure end of this spectrum prefer plans, value expert input, and tend to make decisions quickly. Those on the other end of the spectrum allow for more ambiguity, are more creative, open to risks, and prefer to keep options open.

Do You Rely More on Technical Input or Social Input?

Do you prioritize concrete information when making decisions? If so, you fall on the task-oriented end of the second spectrum. For those decision-makers who are more interested in approval and validation from colleagues and employees, you land on the “people” end of the spectrum.

People who fall at the technical end of the scale rely on information to make the best decision regardless of the opinions of others. At the opposite end of the scale are people who rely on the approval of others when making decisions.

What Are the Decision-Making Styles?

Most people recognize four different decision-making styles. They may use different names, but the ideas behind each style are generally the same.

  • Directive decision-makers are result-driven. They fall at the technical and structure ends of the two spectrums.
  • Analytical decision-makers focus on the best answer. On one spectrum, they lean toward the technical, information end, and on the other spectrum, they have more flexibility.
  • Behavioral decision-makers are the ultimate team players who require structure but rely on the input of others.
  • Conceptual decision-makers are achievement-oriented. They are at the flexible end of one spectrum and the social end of the other spectrum.

Some professionals believe there are more styles of decision-making and further breakdown the four quadrants into five or seven separate styles. There is a great deal of overlap and complexity involved when discussing five or more decision-making styles. Further, much of the research and literature relies on four methods of decision-making.

Digging Deeper on Directive Decision-Making

Directive decision-makers rely on their existing knowledge and past experiences to make quick decisions. They are authoritative, take-charge leaders who make rational decisions and think mostly in the short-term.

Characteristics of Directive Decision-Makers

Those who rely on this method make decisions and move on without considering other possibilities. They have no desire to spend time exploring other choices or gathering additional information because they’re content with the information they possess. Directive decision-makers view time as a precious resource and will not waste it.

Directive decision-makers tend to have excellent communication skills. Their confidence in a decision is infectious and garners both trust and support from those around them. People how to use the directive method are able to share their solutions in a clear, concise manner. They value brevity, clarity, and loyalty in others.

However, these decision-makers are often closed to advice from others, differing opinions, and unknown situations or changes. They may struggle to adapt to new circumstances.

Leadership and Directive Decision-Making

This method of decision-making lends itself to leadership roles because it’s based on the principles of one person making a choice and relaying it to the rest of their team. If you are a leader who exercises this method of decision-making, it is necessary to be knowledgeable and have experience with procedures.

Leaders should be cautious of complacency with this style of decision-making. It’s a good idea to prepare for the likelihood that you’ll have to adopt another style at some point because nothing in life runs smoothly forever.

Benefits of Directive Decision-Making

People who make decisions using this style take ownership of the outcome because they alone are accountable. This method works well when decision-makers are knowledgeable and educated about the choices.

This approach is also beneficial when a choice needs to be made quickly. It also eliminates the need for extraneous communication since one person decides and delivers the solution.

The Downside of Directive Decision-Making

No decision-making style is perfect. There are some drawbacks to the directive style. Since solutions are based on one individual’s experiences and knowledge, they may not account for all the available information and consequently miss alternate solutions.

When management applies this method to all decisions, they create a culture of dependence in an organization. Other people are not given the opportunity to learn processes, provide input, or gain ownership over their actions.

When to Use Directive Decision-Making

Directive decision-making works well for routine issues and establishing procedures for repetitive situations. When there is a clear-cut, cause and effect situation, this method is the fastest path to a solution. It is an order or directive that is especially effective when used by knowledgeable and experienced individuals to establish processes.

Stable, consistent situations are ideal for directive decision-makers who can rely on their experience. When tasks are repetitive with little room for error or disruptions that can’t be planned for, people who favor this style can thrive.

How to Know it’s Time to Consider Another Style

As long as the basic cause-and-effect scenario exists, the directive decision-making style should suffice. However, should circumstances change, and the situation evolves to something new or more complex, it may be necessary to reevaluate your decision-making approach.

Are You an Analytical Decision-Maker?

Analytic decision-makers assemble as much information as possible before making a decision. They are adaptable and use a well-rounded approach when addressing a problem, but they take time to arrive at a solution.

Characteristics of Analytical Decision-Makers

Individuals who favor this method of decision-making are open to new information and input because they desire to find the best solution. Analytical decision-makers are often creative and remain open to unique solutions if they provide the best results.

Problem-solving is exciting and enjoyable for analytical decision-makers. They thrive on control and funneling through mountains of information.

Weaknesses of analytical decision-makers are their communication skills and ability to manage stress during the process. They also struggle to deliver a timely response.

Leadership and Analytical Decision-Making

When leaders prefer analytical decision-making, they are open to input from their team and often seek out more information to confirm or refute the viability of solutions. They tend to be innovative and adaptable but prefers to control each step in the decision process.

However, leaders who adopt this style may be difficult to work with during the decision-making process because they struggle with stress and pressure. They may lack appropriate communication skills to convey their thoughts to others.

Benefits of Analytical Decision-Making

Analytical decision-makers are excited by problems and puzzles. They appreciate the opportunity to analyze mounds of information and receive input from multiple sources. If you need a comprehensive answer to an issue, no matter how challenging, the analytic decision-maker will happily help.

Especially when it comes to major decisions, the analytical decision-maker will arrive at a solution that has the greatest benefit for the most people. Those who favor this method of decision-making generally provide the most responsible solutions to problems.

The Downside of Analytical Decision-Making

Despite the benefits of this method, there are three main drawbacks to analytical decision-making. The biggest drawback is that decisions take a long time because of the need to review all possible information. Situations that require quick results could be problematic.

Second, communication can be difficult because it is not a strength for these individuals. The time they commit to finding solutions and their lengthy, thorough reports can frustrate others.

Finally, the analytical decision-maker’s struggle to manage stress during the process due to their need to control every aspect. They will also struggle if pressured to decide before they are ready.

When to Use Analytical Decision-Making

Any cause-and-effect situation that should have a solution, but it’s not yet clear is the perfect problem for an analytical decision-maker to solve. They will stop at nothing to discover the best answer to the problem and dissolve any uncertainties before acting.

Analytical decision-makers will deliver comprehensive solutions that are fact-based and likely tested before submission. If you are worried about potential outcomes of a specific action, analytical decision-makers will usually have answers for any of your concerns.

How to Know it’s Necessary to Consider Another Style

If a problem requires a snappy solution, you may want to try a different approach. Amassing piles of information and consulting every person with expertise on a subject is not always a viable option. When you are unable to make a decision using this method, it’s time to move on to a different style.

Breaking Down Behavioral Decision-Making

Behavioral decision-making relies on structure, stability, and maintaining harmony between all parties involved. They are excellent at establishing group dynamics by making sure all parties are heard and included. Behavioral decision-makers focus almost exclusively on the impact their decisions will have on people.

Characteristics of Behavioral Decision-Makers

People who prefer behavioral decision-making tend to focus on maintaining peace in all relationships. They often honor the opinions and respect the needs of friends, family, and colleagues over their own needs and desires.

Behavioral-decision makers tend to be known as “people pleasers” and not only seek advice from others but strive to make them feel important to solutions. They are empathetic, persuasive, and exceptional at inclusion, so they easily pull others on board with projects.

Since behavioral decision-makers are so concerned with the thoughts and opinions of others, they often have difficulty trusting themselves and dealing with conflict. They may have difficulty balancing their desire for structure with their need to accommodate the thoughts and feelings of others.

Leadership and Behavioral Decision-Making

Leaders who adopt this method of decision-making tend to break down communication barriers. They draw groups of people together and encourage open discussions where every participant has input.

Open communication marks this style of decision-making. Expect to make decisions in groups where everybody is encouraged to discuss the available options, and the final decision is collaborative.

Benefits of Behavioral Decision-Making

Democratic, group discussion is the main draw of this style of decision-making. Behavioral decision-makers have strong communication skills and excel at reading the reactions of others. They are the ultimate team players and push toward the decision that appeases the most people.

Behavioral decision-makers know how to read a room and are excellent listeners with a special talent for gauging emotions. Their skills of persuasion are also helpful in smoothing difficult issues to achieve harmony.

The Downside of Behavioral Decision-Making

Conflict is the downfall of behavioral decision-makers. People who rely on this style tend to be so concerned with the opinions of others that they avoid conflict at all costs, so they don’t want to upset anybody. The inability to address conflict leads to excess stress for a behavioral decision-maker and may prevent the introduction of new ideas.

Further, behavioral decision-making involves a lot of input, which can be overwhelming. In some cases, it can be easy to get lost in the collection process and have difficulty arriving at a decision.

When to Use Behavioral Decision-Making

If the goal is a solution that will positively impact the social stability of your organization, behavioral decision-makers are your best bet. This decision-making style is useful when you have open communication throughout the organization and seek to foster relationships.

Even if you prefer one of the other decision-making styles, it’s a good idea to understand the value of this method. While it’s not the best option for every situation, behavioral decision-making can when a team is feeling silenced or fractured. Nothing brings people together like true teamwork where every player has input.

How to Know it’s Time to Consider Another Style

Keep in mind, this style of decision-making can stifle new ideas. If participants are afraid to introduce new ideas or challenge opinions to avoid conflict, this is not the best option. To use this style, you also need a decisive leader to guide and end the discussions at an appropriate point.

Since this method is heavily reliant on input from several people, it can lead to stalemates and frustration. If your team has trouble arriving at a consensus with this method, it’s time to switch gears to another decision-making style.

Understanding How Conceptual Decision-Making Works

Conceptual decision-making involves creativity, exploration, and a desire to impact the world. Organizations seeking to have an impact and willing to take risks usually benefit from conceptual decision-making. Conceptual decision-makers are the “big picture” people who account for and integrate many different perspectives.

Characteristics of Conceptual Decision-Makers

Conceptual decision-makers are often daydreamers. They can present creative ideas almost on command and are achievement-oriented. Open-minded and future-oriented, these decision-makers are aware of how their solutions will impact others.

People who prefer this style of decision-making like to explore “what if” scenarios to arrive at their answer. They usually have a broad outlook and love exploring new territory. Conceptual decision-makers thrive in the unknown and are driven by the desire to have an impact on their world.

Leadership and Conceptual Decision-Making

It takes time to establish this decision-making style in an organization. Leadership must be patient and gradually increase interaction, encourage experimentation, and open lines of communication. The goal is for individuals to develop and deliver innovative ideas to solve problems based on information collected by the team.

Encouraging your team to develop new ideas can be in the form of fun competitions between smaller groups or challenges presented to the entire group. The goal is to develop new ideas, explore open-ended questions, and encourage your team to think outside the box.

Benefits of Conceptual Decision-Making

Problems that have more than one competing idea or have elements of unpredictability are well-suited for this style of decision-making. This approach allows you to explore potential solutions and account for unpredictable components because it relies on experimentation and long-term research.

Conceptual decision-making tends to yield creative, innovative solutions to problems. It’s ideal if you have time to develop several different ideas to arrive at your answer.

The Downside of Conceptual Decision-Making

In many ways, conceptual decision-making seems ideal for many situations. However, if you need an immediate or definitive solution, you’re not going to get it from this method. There is very little structure and plenty of room for mistakes in this decision-making style.

The biggest weakness of conceptual decision-making is the inability to take action on a solution. Though these people can think big and create fantastic solutions, they often lack an appropriate plan to make it happen.

When to Use Conceptual Decision-Making

Are you looking for a new answer? Have you been stuck recycling old ideas and coming up short? This method is the surest way to a new solution to your problem.

Organizations looking to make a splash and truly impact the world tend to rely on this style of decision-making. These people understand how the world works but tend to have a slightly different approach to things.

If you’re hoping to tackle a problem with unknown variables, time to test theories, and no rigid structure, you’ll want to try this method. Conceptual decision-makers explore the options and develop a solution based on patterns that emerge.

How to Know it’s Time to Consider Another Style

Big ideas are wonderful, especially if you have the time to explore them. However, time is relative to conceptual decision-makers. If you need an answer today, tomorrow, or sometime this week, you need to try one of the other decision-making styles.

Also, if you have a narrow margin for error, conceptual decision-making is not the best method to find your solution.

How Decision-Making Styles Affect Organizations

As you can see, no decision-making style is perfect. They all have strengths and weaknesses making them suited to solving specific types of problems. What works well in one organization may fail in another. However, each organization should have a main decision-making style that everyone is aware of, so expectations are clear.

At some point, an organization may need to reevaluate their predominant decision-making style to survive a shift in the industry. New strategies, major changes in industry norms, and new leadership can disrupt the status quo.

Organizations have access to more information than ever and work with partners all over the globe. This has led to complications in businesses because of too much access to data and unclear decision-making roles.

Successful businesses have a predominant decision-making style but adapt when necessary. They also clearly communicate with every level of the organization, so the entire team is on the same page to avoid confusion and disengagement.

Can You Learn a New Decision-Making Style?

Decision-making style is a fundamental part of everyday life. Both personally and professionally, you may find that your preferred decision-making style is ill-equipped to handle a problem you’re facing.

Is it possible to learn a new decision-making style?

Yes, it’s not easy to adopt a new decision-making style because our preferred methods are tied closely to our characteristics. However, developing new decision-making skills is possible with practice. You can learn through studying, seeking advice from others, working with a coach, or even counseling.

Making a drastic switch in your decision-making style may be a bit much for anybody. Instead, try one of the decision-making styles on the same end of one spectrum as your preferred style. Look at which of the two spectrums is more important to you and hold onto that one but make a shift on the other spectrum.

For example, a directive decision-maker may wish to learn analytic decision-making skills if you really prioritize information and able to relinquish some structure. Or, if you need the structure, try involving people in your decision and explore the behavioral decision-making style.

The Art of Decision-Making Matters

Decisions affect every aspect of our lives. Each day is a string of decisions that leads to our next steps. Understanding how we approach decisions is a critical component of our development and increases self-awareness to improve our chances of success.

Focus on your decision-making style to understand how you work with others and what skills you can develop to achieve your goals. Regardless of your personal style, well-developed decision-making skills transfer to any job in any industry and impact every aspect of your life.

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