How Do You Decide? Identifying Your Decision-Making Style

Making decisions is part of the process of owning a business, but it is also the responsibility of every manager and supervisor all the way down the chain.  The task even falls to individual employees to streamline day to day operations.  Decision-making prevents paralysis, so no matter who you are, you still need to make the best decision possible based on the situation.

The smaller the company, the more important each decision is.  Hiring a single employee can make or break the company depending upon how they affect the chemistry of the staff.

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What is your style?

Back in 2013, Dan Lovallo and Olivier Sibony authored a study based on 5,000 survey responses from the McKinsey Quarterly and the Harvard Business Review, identifying five techniques which they called Catalyst, Adaptor, Guardian, Motivator, and Visionary.  It was an insightful analysis.

Many others have broached the subject, identifying as few as three, and sometimes seven or more different styles.  After looking those over, Lovallo and Sibony seemed to have come up with the most generally useful collection.

These styles can be described in terms of their placement on a diametrically opposed spectrum of six items, and the synergy (or impediment) created by each combination.  These factors cover every human being, but by being aware of them we can see where they are conflicting with our intent.

  1. Process

    1. Committed to a rule-set—everything must conform to policy;
    2. Design the process on-the-fly—be highly adaptable;
  2. Tendency

    1. Quick decisions and immediate actions preferred;
    2. Thoughtful examination—consider all the possibilities;
  3. Information Gathering

    1. Cast a wide net—learn everything you can;
    2. Each situation is unique—demand pinpoint focus;
  4. Interest Priority

    1. Company must be the main benefactor of the decision;
    2. A decision must make the decision-maker look good;
  5. Action Potential

    1. Status quo must be maintained;
    2. Evolution is the ultimate goal;
  6. Persuasion Style

    1. Facts rule;
    2. Prophecy and potential chart the future path.

The Catalyst

This is an individual who likes to gather a little more information than absolutely necessary to make sure they’re not missing anything.  By the same token, they like to stimulate people to action.  They possess a very balanced approach to problem-solving, so they tend to be able to suppress their personal biases in favor of making the best possible decision.

Conversely, while they don’t lag behind with old-fashioned ideas, neither are they on the cutting edge.

The Adaptor

This person is flexible by nature and does not demand absolute certainty.  Instead of seeing issues and problems, they see potentials, solutions, and alternate outcomes which often elude more conventional thinkers.  They don’t mind working “outside the box”; unconventional strategies appeal to them.

On the other hand, there’s the old joke about the man who was so open-minded that his brain fell out.  This person is so flexible that they can entertain long drawn out debates as deadlines go whizzing by.  If this is you, be alert to this weakness.

The Guardian

Similar to The Catalyst, The Guardian also takes a measured approach to decision-making, but the tendency is more towards careful planning and choices based on facts.  They’re not very adventurous, being cautious by nature, and they like to play by the rules.  The more information they have at their fingertips, the better, in their estimation.

They like the status quo, and then take too long to make decisions in a crisis situation.  If they can recognize this aspect of their character, they can solicit advice to help move the decision-making process along and come up with timely solutions.

The Motivator

This person, by their very nature, is like a shot of adrenaline.  They are perfectly suited to an environment with rapid change and development.  They draw people to them via their enthusiasm, persuasiveness, and charisma.  They stimulate them to think in new ways; to take the road less traveled; to regard risk as a challenge rather than a barrier to progress.

This person can sometimes become too wrapped up in their own narrative.  Gossamer concepts and ephemeral ideas may dominate their thoughts and so it becomes essential that they “come down to Earth” periodically, and make sure they understand the real state of affairs.  If they recognize this tendency they can make a deliberate effort to be more pragmatic by making a point of reading accounting figures, growth projections, and other forms of market analysis.

The Visionary

This person is ordinarily extremely focused on a particular goal, often to the exclusion of information which might cause them to reconsider their objectives.  They become enamored with an idea, and are so enthusiastic they can persuade others to join them in “their mission”.

Companies can go a long way down the wrong path before the visionary will pause to realize any errors.  The person with this decision style needs to pay attention to the naysayers among their advisors, and gather additional information to see if the complaints have some validity.

This is difficult for someone with an 80 percent success rate; it’s far too easy to dismiss the 20 percent when things didn’t work out perfectly.  Forging ahead can be very expensive, damage relations with stakeholders, and even compromise the faith of your user base.

Solution 1 or 2 Choice Shows Strategy Options Or Solving


To Conclude

There are all sorts of online tests available to help you identify your personality type, if you’re not sure where you fit in.  Many people have a rough idea of their decision-making style, while others are completely surprised.

If you are consensus-seeker you’ll gather people around you and use their input to make a “democratic” sort of decision.  If you’re driven by intuition and “gut feelings” (think Lee Iacocca), your decisions are often driven by instinct and feelings.  If you feel paralyzed until you get enough information then you are “Data Driven”; you want to see the numbers and research reports before deciding.

Here is one tool that might be useful for a preliminary analysis, but remember to explore others if it doesn’t quite encompass your own interpretation.  Like an I.Q. test, these things reveal what the designer of the quiz was looking for when it was created.  There is no single one that is universally applicable.

Further Reading:  Identifying Your Leadership Style


Fred Coon, CEO

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200