Which Of The Four Main Decision Making Styles Do You Use?

Written by EO Executives on Jun 26, 2015

What’s the best decision making style for leaders? I am still undecided.

The harsh reality is that the further up the leadership chain you go the more your role will be about decision making and the less your role will be about what you were originally trained in and good at!

The decisions come at you from every angle and in all shapes and sizes.  There is the more obvious stuff around people, strategy and planning but also other day to day decisions for example around whether to accept certain commercial terms or not or whether to enforce penalties on suppliers who haven’t delivered – over time this stuff adds up and will ultimately define your level of career success.

And if you happen to be in a start-up or transforming organisation then probably best to recognise now that your role will be little other than making decisions for the foreseeable future!

So why is business decision making so tough?

  1. Lack of access to quality data
  2. Lack of objective opinion - as a leader some staff will tell you what you want to hear/what they feel makes them look good
  3. Decisions are emotional – decisions have consequences
  4. You may need senior sponsorship approval and sponsorship – there is often a process
  5. Suppliers and Clients want to rush you – causing additional stress

Different leaders approach things in different ways. So let’s examine the four main leadership styles, personalities and approaches that exist out there in relation to decision making:

1. Balance Sheet Barry

Obsessed with Pro’s and Cons, Balance Sheet Barry’s love to make decisions by scoring the positives and negatives associated with different courses of action.  Advanced Balance Sheet Barry’s also apply a weighting to each scoring criteria to add some validity and science to the scoring process.  Not bad practices to undertake as an executive but many do then find it hard to fully commit to a course of action based on a number score alone – and what if it is really close?  At this point then many revert to one of the below styles such as…….

2. Procrastination Penny

Often a sign of very high intelligence a Procrastination Penny approach can be found in many senior executives.  Over analysis collides with extensive mapping of potential consequences to leave our executive confused, paralysed with fear and unable to commit. Often by the time a decision is made the goalposts have moved and the process of deciding starts over!

3. Gut Feel Phillis 

These executives are the absolute opposites of the Procrastination Penny’s and make their decisions on “what feels right” regardless of the size of the impact of the call that they have to make.   Believing in the strength of their own intuition these executives believe their experiences and previous successes will subconsciously guide them to a quick resolution and future success.  The jury is out on this approach as when you have this personality type you to tend to only remember the decisions you got right when you reflect back and forget when you get it wrong. Having worked in Executive Recruitment for the last ten years I can confirm that intuition alone is rarely enough for accurate hiring decisions and that testing and behavioural analysis of individuals is vital to increasing success rates.  That being said books such as the excellent Blink by Malcolm Gladwell would argue the case for this type of approach and passionately encourage Gut Feel Phillis to continue to go with her instinct every time.

4. Teflon Tim 

Every decision bounces straight off of Teflon Tim. They find a way to either delegate responsibility for decisions or push them back up the tree to absolve them of any accountability.  This often leads to unnecessary bureaucracy, bottle necks and chronic backside covering that negatively impacts speed to market and risk mitigation.  Shocker!

The specific situation and consequences will shape how as a leader you deal with decisions.  Taking the best bits of all of the above approaches can result in you getting more right than you do wrong but decision making will always be a challenge. Does anyone have any top tips to share?

What Next?

Hiring decisions are some of the most important decisions you make throughout your career. Almost every great leader puts their success down to surrounding themselves with high quality teams and individuals. Read more about when to hire with your gut vs hiring with your head by downloading our popular ebook – ‘Eliminating Deception To Make Better Hires’.

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