Decision making; how do we make our best decisions?

From deciding what to have for lunch, to deciding how and where to best spend budget; we all make decisions in different ways.

Some of us are quite comfortable making decisions ‘on the spot’ with little time to think and instead we act on our feelings, and focus on the outcomes of this decision, usually worrying about any problems later when they arise. When we choose our lunch, we simply pick the first thing that catches our eye and looks tasty. For others, this way of making decisions fills us with fear. To make any big decision we would need time to think it through, looking at the advantages, the disadvantages, the risks, the consequences and how this decision will affect us, and the wider environment. Choosing a sandwich for lunch ideally may require us looking in detail at all of the options before we go ahead to purchase. For some, we may like to trial out new ideas, and make our decisions based on how we will put them into practice for the future. We would need to be aware of what steps we need to implement after we’ve made the decision, before we could decide in the first place. When buying lunch, these decision makers might like to try something new and experiment with an option they’ve not tried before if it seems to meet their needs. Or, perhaps we like to know all of the facts before we go ahead to make a decision. Some of us like to research the outcomes of our decisions, such as finding the success rates, the statistics and proven results of the decision, and knowing exactly how this decision will work in our best interests. These decision makers may welcome reading a 1-5 scaled taste review of each lunch option, or take the time to read the description and ingredients of the lunch option before they hand over their payment.

Whatever our preference, we still make a sound decision, yet it’s the process we go through and time we take to make these decisions which differs. So, which of these categories would you most likely fall into?

The Activist whose motto would be ‘grab and go’.

The Reflector whose motto would be ‘let me think about what I fancy for lunch’.

The Pragmatist whose motto would be ‘if it looks tasty and meets my needs, I’ll try it’.

The Theorist whose motto would be ‘let me research the options’.

Perhaps the environment around you forces you to act in one of these preferences more than what would naturally feel better for you. Quite often at work we are fitting to many constraints such as time, budgets, resources, staffing and capacity. If you find yourself being pushed into making decisions in a more uncomfortable way due to these constraints it can feel frustrating, tiring or not quite right. Our context often changes the way we act in different situations, but sometimes knowing the reasons why you feel frustrated or ‘not quite right’ can help you change the way you behave in these situations in the future.

Often those around us affect our decision making too. Think of the team you work with. What categories might they resonate with the most? When you work together, do you get frustrated by the colleague who demands all of the reasons ‘why’ before they agree to a new idea? Or do you feel uncomfortable around the colleague who’s constantly throwing ideas at you to trial out something new, when really, you’d feel more comfortable in welcoming a discussion about such ideas later, when you’ve had time to process them further. Maybe you’re the person who fills the room with ideas, but the reception you receive isn’t quite what you’d hoped for, with others questioning how these ideas translate to the real world.

Wherever you stand with your preferences on decision making, or how you like to work, once you’re aware of what matters to you, it becomes easier to manage these situations. Think about how you interact with others at work. When you know what their preferences are, you can incorporate everyone’s strengths. When working on a project, go to the theorists for the facts and statistics. Ask the reflectors to have a think about which option they would consider best. If you’re trialling out something new, find the pragmatists in your team to help you work out the ‘how’ and create a bullet-proof action plan. Go to the activists to incorporate their open-minded thinking into plans and hone their energy for presentations of the project.

We can embrace and utilise everyone’s individual styles to gain the best out of our circumstances. To learn more about yourself as a manager or leader, or to better understand and utilise your team’s potential, contact us for further information.

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