Decision Making Styles and How to Best Use Them

decision making stylesHow do you make decisions? If you’re like most people, you’ve probably never thought about it before, but every individual has his or her own distinct way of making decisions, and this can sometimes vary radically from person to person. The way that an individual makes decisions, especially in a business setting, can have a big effect on the efficacy of their decisions as well as the relationship they have with their coworkers and those who work under them. This means that an individual’s decision making style is often a crucial part of his or her overall management or leadership style.

You can learn more about developing your own unique leadership style through this Udemy course. Because your decision making style plays such a large role in your leadership abilities, it’s a good idea to know what your specific decision making style is – and whether or not the way you usually make decisions is actually appropriate for the type of position that you hold and the type of environment that you work in.

The Basics of Making Decisions

There are many different ways of making decisions, but let’s start with the basics. One of the biggest and most noticeable differences between individuals is that some people make their decisions externally, while others make these decisions internally.

External decision makers feel the need to write down all the pros and cons of the potential decision on a list, or they will feel the need to talk about the potential consequences of the decision they need to make with a friend or a coworker. In a management or leadership role, other individuals may feel that they are a part of the decision making process, as they get to hear your thoughts from beginning to end.

However, the fact that the external decision maker often feels the need to analyze the issue from every side may make the external decision maker seem like someone who is waffling between different decisions, which can lead to the final decision an individual makes having less weight and less of an impact.

The Internal decision maker goes through this thought process in their own head. Not only do they not need the input of others in making their decision, but they may shun outside input altogether, not wanting their ultimate decision clouded by others’ opinions or ideas regarding the issue.

This can come across as not caring about others’ ideas, so it is recommended that those in leadership roles do open up the forum for discussion at some point so that others know their thoughts and feelings are being taken under consideration. Additionally, once a decision is made, it can often feel as if it came out of nowhere, so it is important for the one making the decision to go back and explain why the decision. This can help to curtail some of the unease that comes with the internal style of decision making. 

Of course, “internal” and “external” are still pretty vague descriptors of decision making styles, and even internal and external decision making styles have their own sub-categories. It’s important to look at all the different ways in which leaders in a business or organization can make decisions, and the way that these decision making styles can play a big role in that person’s ability to lead.

The Directive Decision Making Style 

The directive decision maker is the most obvious of the “internal” decision makers. He or she will internally work out the pros and cons of making a decision based on the information that they already possess, without going to others to get outside input or to gather more information about the situation.

That’s not to say that they won’t do more research in order to make their decision. In fact, because they are generally unwilling to gather information from the people that they work with, outside research sources are crucial in helping them to make the best decision possible.

This is not always the best decision making style, especially when making decisions that will affect a large number of people in an organization. Those who are naturally directive decision makers may consider taking another approach to ensure that they are really getting the most well rounded view of the situation at hand before making their decision.

The Analytical Decision Making Style 

Like the directive decision making style, analytical decision makers do most of the work in their own heads. However, they do go to others for more information and advice. In many cases, the individuals that they are speaking with will not even know that the information that they are being asked for will play a role in making a decision. For the analytical decision maker, this is a great way of getting unbiased and accurate information that they can use in making their decision.

It’s important with the analytical decision making style not to pit employees against one another. This is often not the best way to make internal decisions within an organization, as it can lead to infighting if you aren’t careful. However, it is a great way to gather unbiased input that can then be utilized to make a carefully informed decision.

The Conceptual Decision Making Style 

On the flip side of the coin, the conceptual decision making style is one that is purely external in nature. Not only does this type of decision maker accept outside help, but he or she requires it in order to make decisions. With the conceptual decision making style, many different people are brought in to brainstorm potential solutions. As a result, the conclusions made with this style are often much more creative than those that may be made by a single individual.

This has both its pros and its cons. On the plus side, an organization that is looking to take risks and to stand out from others may thrive with this kind of decision making environment. On the negative side, this style of decision is inherently much riskier than others, and so must be approached carefully when put to use.

The Behavioral Decision Making Style

Like the conceptual decision making style, a group of individuals are approached for their insight into a situation. However, rather than coming up with the potential solutions, they are given the options that are available to them, and must work together to discuss the pros and cons of each of these options. This gives them a limited (and therefore far less risky) amount of space to work in, and comes with the benefit of allowing for many different points of view and outlooks on the situation before a decision is made.

Many regard this as one of the best styles of decision making. However, it’s important to note than any individual that employs this decision making style must be a firm and decisive leader. Not only must they be able to guide the group toward making a single decision, but they must also be ready and willing to take responsibility for the decision the group as a whole has made.

Udemy courses such as How to Lead and Manage Change can be a great resource for those in leadership positions who want to develop their ability to navigate difficult transitional periods in their organizations. Be sure to check this and other similar courses out if you find yourself in a position where you need to take charge under difficult circumstances.

Other Types of Decision Making Styles

Of course, to say that there are only four decision making styles is vastly underestimating the many different types of people and leaders there are in the world of business. There are many other types of decision making styles that a leader may consider utilizing in their organization. Here is an overview of a few more than you may want to learn more about and consider making use of.

  • Democratic – In situations where a decision may affect the people working for you more than it affects the organization itself, it may be best to put the decision to a vote and to give up your own decision making power. Just be sure that all the information is available to those who will be voting so they will be making an informed decision.
  • Consensus – Getting a full consensus in which everybody agrees on a decision is tough, but is a surefire way to know that you are making the right call. Especially sensitive (but not time crucial) decisions may be best left until everybody involved can come to a consensus about what the right decision is.
  • Delegation – Those in leadership roles often will not have the time to make every single decision that comes their way. If you as a leader find that you can’t give a decision the full attention that it deserves, it may be best to delegate the decision to someone who has the time and the expertise to make the decision for you. Be sure this is someone with experience that you – and the other members of your organization – trust.

Analyzing Your Own Decision Making Style 

Now that you have a basic understanding of the different decision making styles, you can probably begin to put two and two together to analyze the way in which you make decisions. Do you feel the need to talk major decisions out or write them down on paper? Or do you do most of the work inside your own head? Do you value the input of others in making decisions or do you worry that the input of others will skew your perspective on the issue?

Once you have a solid understanding of your natural decision making style, you can begin learning more about developing that style to help make you a more effective leader. The Effective Leader’s Guide to Decision Making is an Udemy course that can help guide you through the process of making better decisions for your organization, and can help you understand more about the various methods that can be used for making decisions. For an even more in-depth look at the topic, you can check out this Udemy course on cognitive bias and decision making, which will help you make even better decisions in the workplace.