Everyone has a preferred decision-making style they automatically reach for when faced with any major choice. Knowing yours, and how it both supports and limits you, is key to making informed decisions that lead to success.
In her webinar, Decision making: Understanding how you make decisions (log in to listen on demand) executive coach Des Christofi shines a spotlight on decision making, and how asking yourself these five questions can lead to better results.
1. Am I a thinker or a feeler?
Two members of the same team are contemplating a career change. One is mindful of both the potential for her current role to be made redundant and the rapid growth of the industry sector she’s interested in switching to. The other has realised that her current organisation just isn’t a good fit and knows someone who has a better work/life balance as a result of making a similar change. If you’re more aligned to the first team member’s decision-making style, you are likely to be a ‘thinker’ who makes decisions based on logic, objective criteria, consistency, data and evidence. If the second employee’s style resonates stronger, you’re a ‘feeler’ whose personal values and natural instinct come to the fore when important decisions need to be made – perhaps you’re a deeply empathic individual who instinctively puts yourself in others’ shoes when trying to decide on the best, most harmonious way forward.
2. What are the strengths and weaknesses of my preferred style?
Firstly, think about a recent decision you made where your own personal style was clearly at play. To what extent did your decision-making process serve you well, and what can you do to harness the strengths of your style to inform even better decisions in the future?
Secondly, consider how your preferred style might be limiting you. What information or feelings did you ignore? How might things have turned out different if you’d taken a broader view?
3. What decision would someone with the opposite style make?
Removing yourself from a situation to take an objective view of the data is a great way to make a decision (‘thinking’ style). But if you ignore the perspective of key stakeholders, you might ultimately fail to get their buy-in. Similarly, if you ‘go with your gut’ (‘feeling’ style), someone more cognisant of the hard data may struggle to understand your rationale. The key to being an agile decision maker – and better connecting with and engaging others – is to incorporate elements of the opposing style into your process, so that you’ve truly covered all bases.
Recalling a recent decision, ask yourself what a ‘feeler’ or a ‘thinker’ would do in the same boat. Who do you respect who has a different style to you and how might they have approached the same situation? If you’re making a joint decision, pay attention to who among the group has an opposing style and make every effort to see things from their perspective.
4. How else can I challenge my decision-making style?
As you spend time analysing your usual methods, perhaps you’ve noticed that you tend to prefer making decisions in isolation. Or maybe you like to get as many different perspectives as possible before you reach a conclusion. Do you tend to make assumptions and then spend time proving them right? Or do you stress test your preferred option to ensure it stands up to scrutiny? Whatever your usual method, it’s worth asking yourself, in the face of any new decision, whether you can tweak your approach so it’s fit for purpose. Challenge yourself to try different techniques – even if the decision is ultimately the same, you’ll learn something new in the process.
5. What decision-making style is most valued in my organisation?
Typically, in every organisation, there’s a roughly even split of thinkers and feelers. But it’s common for one style to be valued more strongly, depending on the individuals in leadership positions or for various other reasons. Take note of how decisions tend to be made around you. Does a strong ‘thinker’ boss mean that the group’s ‘feelers’ are often sidelined in debate? Does a team of ‘feelers’ appear to ignore hard data in favour or ‘gut feel’? If you fall into the predominant style, try to ensure that those in the other camp have their say. Or, if your own preference is against the norm, be assertive in stating your opinions, challenging those around you to see your viewpoint. If you’re a leader, ensure that you harness diversity in your team’s decision-making – their choices will be all the richer for it.