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How to Strengthen Decision-Making Skills for Managers

Decision-making is vital to building a successful business, and business leaders need to make the right decisions and drive them with conviction. Fortunately, manager decision-making is a skill rather than an inborn talent so you can learn how to select clear paths and strengthen your existing abilities. This guide for decision-making for managers teaches you how to make better decisions and highlights skills you can work on to become a stronger leader.

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Decision-making for managers

Most managers’ decision-making skills fall into one of four types, each with its unique strengths and weaknesses. It’s helpful to understand the decision-making types and identify where you sit on the spectrum because self-aware leadership helps you better manage others. These decision-making types include:

Analytical

Analytical managers’ decision-making processes typically consider all the options, even the more creative ones. Open to ambiguity and motivated to find the best solution possible, analytical decision-makers usually aren’t big risk-takers and sometimes have issues managing stress due to information overload. The upside of this style is decisions are usually well-plotted and comprehensive, but the downside is analytical decision-making managers typically take their time, which can cause problems in faster-paced business environments.

Directive

Directive managers making decisions do so in a structured way that lets them move forward quickly and confidently. Motivated by potential results, this decision-making type doesn’t appreciate ambiguity, preferring instead to get the decision-making out of the way so the team or business might move ahead to the implementation phase. The advantages of this style are the ability to strike fast and with purpose, but the disadvantages usually include an inability to adapt with conflicting opinions or pivot when circumstances abruptly change.

Conceptual

Conceptual managers’ decision-making processes trend toward openness and ambiguity, with an eye toward remaining flexible enough to roll with the changes. Good managers for uncertain times, this decision-making type usually wants to make an impact on their companies—and the world at large. Thinking big opens conceptual types up to creative solutions and helps them notice subcontext and nuance that reveals underlying issues. On the downside, this type sometimes falters when it comes to quick action and may have issues with planning and follow-through.

Behavioral

Behavioral manager decision-making methods typically include structure and purpose, and this type is generally motivated by a need to maintain a harmonious business environment. Leaning heavily upon relationships with employees and superiors, this decision-making type is constantly on the lookout for input and feedback, incorporating what they learn into their process. The major benefit to behavioral decision-makers is they ensure everyone on the team feels included. Likewise, the disadvantage of this style is a lack of confidence—or even inability—to handle interpersonal conflict.

The manager decision-making process

Managers make choices that impact the business every day, so those positions require you to thoroughly consider the issues and chart the right course. When you use the most pertinent information, the decisions you make tend to deliver intended impacts, whether you’re establishing a path for small teams or your entire business. Before you dive in, though, it helps to understand decision-making isn’t a one-time event, but a process.

As such, a step-by-step framework for decision-making managers like the following typically provides the best results:

1. Define the issue: Managers making decisions need to first frame the issue correctly. Defining issues means asking questions, getting feedback from key players and looking at the situation from all possible angles to gauge potential impacts both upstream and downstream. An in-depth understanding of the scenario in question helps make manager decision-making a more informed process, so don’t be afraid to solicit advice from superiors or mentors who may have faced similar situations—if you’re working within the same company, your success also may also be their success.

2. Review information: The more relevant information they have on hand, the better a manager’s decision-making is likely to be. With this in mind, decision-making managers should gather as much relevant data as possible before charting a course. Relevant data may include anything from historical sales data for your company to articles about competitors implementing new systems. For larger decisions, the manager decision-making process may require delegating those data-gathering tasks to team members who understand the elements involved.

3. Evaluate each option: Managers making decisions should consider the pros and cons of each possible course of action to determine which routes provide the best chance of success. Look for patterns within the information you or your workers gathered, and use that data to determine what worked and what didn’t for others in similar scenarios. While there’s no way to predict the future, understanding cause and effect can sometimes help you quickly rule out potential paths that lead nowhere.

4. Choose a course of action: Successful decision-making managers usually have one thing in common—when they make a choice, they execute it quickly and decisively. This decisiveness doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a Plan B in place should circumstances change, however, so be sure to build your plans with adaptability in mind. Even if your decision-making type isn’t the dominant directive one, you can still make excellent decisions by understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your style.

5. Implement your plan: With the road ahead set and clear, implement the plan you created with your decision-making process. Make a clear, specific and actionable plan you can communicate with clarity and ease to employees and superiors who make have questions or concerns. While some dissenters may not share your vision, those team members may offer valuable insight by virtue of their unique perspective, so be open to input, even if it doesn’t fit into your master plan.

6. Assess the results: Every course of action you take is a learning opportunity. Monitor results to pinpoint which of your decision-making skills need improvement. Did you:

  • Have the right data?
  • Consider or recognize each option?
  • Communicate well enough to your employees?

7. Adjust for the future: Make changes to reorient your course of action if need be. Note what worked and what didn’t so you can make better decisions in the future.

Key decision-making for managers skills

The key to improvement is discovering weaknesses and strengthening them, and one way to do this is through a skill gap analysis. In general, these skills strengthen most managers’ decision-making abilities:

  • Problem-solving: Strong problem-solving skills help managers making decisions identify problems and find solutions while remaining calm under pressure.
  • Data analysis: Data analysis skills let decision-making managers perform their own analysis, delegate to the right employees and understand the type of data you need.
  • Time management: Some choices require quick action, so the ability to make sound, informed decisions within the necessary time frame proves critical to managers making decisions.
  • Communication: Clear, effective communication both when making decisions and communicating them to employees and superiors prevents misunderstandings and helps ensure smooth rollouts.
  • Active listening: Active listening keeps you informed of progress on projects, work processes and how employees are doing at their jobs.
  • Humility: When another staff member’s solution is better than your own, show some humility by acknowledging this and making the right decision, regardless of who thought of it.
  • Mediation: Good manager decision-making includes assessing each staff member’s opinion, being fair and diffusing conflict.
  • Planning: Planning well helps your team stay ahead by providing a clear-cut game plan that accounts for unexpected difficulties and minor snags.
  • Leadership: Good leadership skills help bring others around to your position, making it simpler to implement the decisions you make.

Related: 7 Effective Skills to Help You Become a Better Leader

What you should know about decision-making

The decision-making process requires skills that you can learn and develop with time. While you always shoot for the best possible outcome, even the less-than-optimal ones can provide valuable experience that helps you avoid potential pitfalls in the future. With that in mind, take time to practice decision-making steps when business opportunities allow and learn from every decision you make. The more experience you get, the more comfortable and effective you can be in your manager decision-making process.Related: How to Manage Employees

Frequently asked questions about decision-making for managers

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about decision-making:

What is the importance of data in decision-making?

When you have good data, you have a better chance of accurately predicting the results of your intended action. You also have better information to persuade others that your decision is the right one.

How can you encourage ethical decision-making?

Ethical decision-makers consider the effects of their decisions on their communities and their business’s bottom line. They encourage other employees to do likewise. When effectively implemented, ethical decision-making enables your company to thrive while being a positive force in the community.

What are the four decision-making methods?

Decision-making for managers takes four different tracks. The command method entails making decisions on your own with no help from others, while the consult method invites employees and teammates to share their input. The vote method involves talking through all the issues and options, then voting on a choice. Last, the consensus decision-making method requires everyone to discuss possibilities, then come to a unanimous decision.

How do you come back from less-than-optimal decisions?

Managers making decisions don’t always make good ones, but ways exist to soften the blow. The first step is admitting responsibility and the second step is analyzing what went wrong. If there’s still time, look to solutions you passed over when making the original decision to see if you can use one to pivot to a better outcome.

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