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Identifying decision-making styles

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Communicating effectively as a team when making important decisions is easier to accomplish when you take the time to understand employees’ decision-making processes.

According to professional engineer and speaker Shelley Row, there are four styles of decision-making: No-brainer, over-thinking, knee-jerk and complex. Learning how to identify which styles your team members favor is critical to communicating with them in the context of any decision-making process. Understanding these four styles builds clarity and confidence in team decisions:

  • Complex. This style of decision-maker relies heavily on perception and context and is easiest to manage. Complex decision-makers separate the objective from the context, acknowledge the feelings of the others involved in the decision and process others’ perceptions of the impact. They tend to intuitively process the many variables rather than apply strictly logical thinking. 
  • Overthinking. Overthinkers require data and analysis, and lots of it. Unfortunately, employees with this style are prone to analysis paralysis, and they often attempt to forestall or postpone making decisions until more information can be uncovered. Be wary of overthinkers. Place time limits on the process to avoid spending more time making the decision than the end result is worth.
  • Knee-jerk. Everyone makes quick or reactionary decisions occasionally; knee-jerkers do it regularly, and usually arrive at their decisions without getting all of the available information. They are quick to overreact, prone to ignore input from others and invest a lot of emotion, rather than cognition, in the end result. The pitfalls of managing this style include having to clean up the mess afterward or manage the employee’s regrets.
  • No-brainer. Sticking to established processes and procedures is the hallmark of this decision-making style, which might also be described as “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” These employees love to consider facts with little or no emotional involvement and often default to their previous experience or knowledge base in arriving at a decision. Coach employees in this category to ask more emotional questions about outcomes.

— Adapted from “Four Styles of Decision-Making: Which One Do You Use?,” Shelley Row, Women In Technology International Careers blog, www.witi.com.

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