How your decision-making style can ultimately empower your team members

Paul Slezak

I have a client based in Dubai who is the CEO of a rapidly scaling international business. I have been coaching him for many years and a few weeks ago, he asked me if I could run a specific session for three of his team leaders. 

“I’d love it if you could run it for them together”, he said. “But I’m guessing it won’t be possible, since one of them is based with me here in Dubai, one is in London, the other one is in New York, and you’re in Sydney”. 

He hadn’t realised I was actually working in Asia for a few weeks (the joys of remote coaching!) so it was possible for me run the workshop … as long as his New York based team leader would be happy to be online at 8am. Everyone else would be fine, and for me (in Malaysia) it would be 8pm. 

It was a great session geared towards understanding the impact a leader’s decision-making style can have on employees. 

We published an article a while ago highlighting four decision-making styles which can certainly be applied to the context of leadership.  

During my workshop I asked the three leaders to think about whether they were more oriented toward technical concerns, or social concerns; and whether they had a high tolerance for ambiguity and a low need for structure, or a low tolerance for ambiguity and therefore a high need for structure. This then determined whether they were (primarily) an analytical decision maker, a behavioural decision maker, a conceptual decision maker, or a directive decision maker. 

At a high level, analytical decision makers solve problems by analysis, planning and forecasting; behavioural decision makers solve problems through people; conceptual decision makers solve problems by exploring new options, forming new strategies, being creative, and taking risks, while directive decision makers solve problems by applying operational objectives in a systematic and efficient manner.  

As was the case with my three keen participants, most leaders will probably find that there’s no such thing as a one size fits all approach to decision-making.   

You typically wouldn’t just pick one and stick to it, since different situations call for different decision-making approaches. Sure, there might be times when it makes sense to make a quick decision on your own. In other situations, for the sake of the team and the culture, you might be better off soliciting the feedback and opinions of your team members.  

By being aware of your own decision-making style, as a leader you can choose the most appropriate approach based on the context, helping you make more effective decisions that align with the circumstances. 

I gave the three leaders a questionnaire to complete and then as a group we unpacked the analytical, behavioural, conceptual, and directive decision-making styles. 

Throughout the debrief I could sense that the leader in New York was keen to contribute more. I explained to her that even though I was facilitating the workshop, it was a perfect opportunity for peer learning, and I encouraged her to share her thoughts, which she did. And her commentary steered the conversation in a different direction which was awesome, and certainly worthy of highlighting in this piece. 

From her personal experience both as a leader herself and having worked for a few different leaders in the past, she believed that when it comes to decision making, leaders either:  

  • Decide alone without consulting anyone before simply announcing it to the team.  
  • Present a problem to team members individually to get their suggestions, but then ultimately still make the decision themselves. 
  • Present a problem to the team as a group to get their suggestions, but then ultimately still make the decision themselves. 
  • Present a problem to the team as a group, facilitate a discussion encouraging the team to come up with a decision without weighing in; or 
  • Delegate the decision-making process entirely to the team to identify and diagnose the problem and ultimately come up with a solution. 

Some leaders prefer to make decisions independently, without consulting anyone. 

This approach allows them to rely on their experience, expertise, and intuition. These leaders may have a high level of confidence in their abilities and may prefer a more autocratic style of decision making. They believe in their own judgment and may feel that consulting others could slow down the decision-making process. 

Some leaders will present their challenges to certain individuals within the team. 

This approach allows leaders to tap into the diverse perspectives, expertise, and insights of employees, promoting individual ownership and involvement, empowering team members to contribute their ideas and voice their opinions. Leaders who prefer this approach value the individual strengths and knowledge from specific members of the group. 

Some leaders will prefer to share their challenges with the team as a whole. 

Leaders who adopt this approach encourage open discussion, brainstorming, and the sharing of ideas and perspectives, promoting collective thinking and ensuring that all team members are given the opportunity to contribute their insights. Such leaders value inclusiveness and believe that diverse perspectives result in better decisions. They aim to create an environment of collaboration and synergy within the team. 

Some leaders prefer to facilitate team decision making and guide their team through the decision-making process. 

In situations like this, the leader creates a structured framework, sets the agenda, and encourages active participation from team members. Here the leader’s role is purely to ensure that all viewpoints are heard, and to guide the team towards consensus. This approach fosters teamwork, co-operation, and a sense of shared responsibility. Leaders who prefer this approach believe in the power of collective intelligence and value the engagement and commitment of their team members. 

And then there are leaders who delegate decision making and empower their team to make a decision without interference. 

These leaders trust the capabilities and expertise of their team members to analyse the challenge, explore options, and make a well-informed decision. In doing so, they not only develop the skills and confidence of team members, but they also promote a sense of ownership and accountability, valuing the development of their team members and recognising that shared decision making can lead to better outcomes. 

As we were wrapping up the workshop, I reinforced to the three leaders that ultimately, a leader’s preferred approach to decision making reflects their individual tendencies, core values, organisational context, and the specific demands of the situation. 

Effective leaders often adapt their approach based on their circumstances and strive for a balance between autonomy, collaboration, and empowerment. They remain open to feedback, continuously refine their decision-making styles, and select the approach that best serves the organisation and its employees. 

When leaders are aware of their styles, they can strive for consistency in their decision-making processes. Consistency promotes predictability, and when team members can anticipate how their leaders will respond to a specific situation, it fosters trust, stability and a sense of fairness and security within the team. 

What is your preferred decision-making style? 

Remember,  Hellomonday can provide support to every leader, reinforcing habits through curated learning and impactful coaching, helping leaders understand and consider their decision-making styles to enhance their effectiveness and empower their team members.