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8 Types of Decision Making Styles (and How They Shape Your Workplace)

man with blue hair showing different decision making styles

Understanding decision making styles can help you make decisions and convince others easily.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could understand your decision-making style and more quickly arrive at the best choice? And wouldn’t this understanding also be helpful regarding other people so you could know the best ways to convince them?

Well, thanks to our 20 years of motivation research, that’s possible. Below, we’ll go over the traits that influence people’s decision-making styles and discuss what they mean for your work.

But first, let’s go over some common decision-making styles often discussed in the business world.

Table of contents

The 4 decision-making styles as defined by Rowe and Mason’s Decision Style Inventory

If you Google “decision-making styles,” much of what you’ll find revolves around four types:

  • Analytical
  • Behavioral
  • Conceptual
  • Directive

These four labels are based on research by Alan Rowe and Richard Mason, who developed a Decision Style Inventory to measure a person’s decision-making style. They wrote about it at length in their book, Managing with Style, published in 1987.

However, in our 20 years of research, we found that people don’t fit neatly into boxes. We don’t believe in types. We’ve uncovered 48 distinct traits (“motivations”), and within each trait, we’ve scored motivation levels within a culture between 0 to 100. For people with motivation levels outside the levels for others in their culture, their personal score might be in the minuses or above 100. The result? A unique “fingerprint.”

We want to help you build upon your knowledge of decision-making styles with our modern, evidence-based traits around decision-making by going over eight motivations that influence your decision-making style.

Decision making styles - part 1: The 4 ‘Convincer Input’ traits

Motivations in the Convincer Input group govern the communication methods you prefer to use when making a decision. (Hint: If you’re trying to convince someone, it’s helpful to know their Convincer Input motivations!)

Doing (aka Kinesthetic Learning Style)

How important is it to you to personally experience something before making a decision about it? Those with a high motivation for doing prefer to touch, feel, test and experience something themselves before they’re convinced it’s the right decision.

Signs you might be motivated toward doing

  • Instead of hearing how something works—whether it’s an app, a machine or a new process—you prefer to get your hands on it and try it yourself.
  • You find that doodling, taking notes or walking during meetings helps you better process an idea.
  • You need to meet someone before you’re convinced about them.
  • You might say things like, “I won’t know until I do it,” “I want to touch and feel it,” or “It doesn’t feel right to me.”

Strengths to nurture

  • You thrive in roles where you get to use your hands to build and test things. Think engineering, product design, architecture and art.
  • Because you learn best by doing something yourself, you typically don’t require many external resources or hand-holding from others as you make decisions.

Blind spots

  • If you’re pressed for time, a “doing” style can slow things down because it takes time to test things yourself.
  • It’s not always possible to personally experience something beforehand; in these cases, you’ll need to learn how to make a decision based on the information you glean from other sources.

Reading (aka Read/Write Learning Style)

Do you rely heavily on reading facts and data before you’re convinced? Those highly motivated toward reading love to use documentation, reports, research studies and even emails to inform their decisions. 

Signs you might be motivated toward reading

  • You’re constantly Googling for more information to help you make a decision.
  • You think carefully before speaking and often use long, complicated sentences.
  • You say things like, “I’d like to understand,” “What does the process involve?” or “That doesn’t make sense to me.”

Strengths to nurture

  • You thrive in remote work culture, where most communication takes place in Slack messages, emails and text.
  • You do well in jobs that involve a high amount of data and reports.
  • Anyone who works with you will never suffer a lack of documentation. You tend to keep meticulous records, which is helpful for you and your company.

Blind spots to watch out for

  • When reports, reviews or other written information isn’t available, you may lose motivation and stall on a decision. You’ll need to learn to use what you see, hear and experience to become convinced.
  • Sometimes, you’ll be asked to decide on the spot, without referencing written material first. This can be stressful for you.
  • You might place too much value on facts and data and dismiss important information available via personal experience and what others are telling you.

Hearing (aka Hearing Learning Style)

How much weight do you place on hearing something when making a decision? Those highly motivated toward hearing prefer to have conversations or listen to someone explain something.

Signs you may be motivated toward hearing

  • You prefer to listen to audiobooks, podcasts and other presentations.
  • You often ask if you can talk to someone on the phone or meet them in person rather than carry on a conversation via email or Slack.
  • You tend to say things like, “Can we hop on a call to talk this through?” “I need to hear you explain it to me,” or “Listen here.”
  • You are easily distracted by sounds.
  • You pay attention to people’s tone of voice and volume.

Strengths to nurture

  • Our research found that top business builders tend to have a very high motivation for hearing—93% higher than those who failed in business.
  • Motivation for hearing is linked to profitability. This is a great skill to have if you’re starting a venture!
  • You’re tuned in to some of the nonverbal components of conversation, such as tone of voice and inflection—things others might overlook. This can help you glean information beyond the words people use.

Blind spots

  • You may struggle in remote work environments or in a company culture where written communication is heavily used.
  • Noisy workplaces tend to be very distracting for you.
  • While you prefer having conversations in person, on the phone or via video chat, that’s not always a possibility. You may be forced to make a decision based on written communication.

Seeing (aka Visual Learning Style)

If graphs, charts, and face-to-face meetings are key to convincing you, you may be highly motivated toward seeing. This motivation revolves around visual stimuli to aid in decision making.

Signs you may be motivated toward seeing

  • You think in pictures and try to visualize concepts.
  • Drawing things helps you understand better.
  • Eye contact during conversations is important to you.
  • You often say things like, “Let’s take a look,” “I just can’t picture it,” and “Let me show you.”

Strengths to nurture

  • You excel in roles with a lot of visual stimuli, such as user experience and design.
  • You have an eye for detail—nothing slips past you!

Blind spots to watch out for

  • In meetings and presentations that are mostly verbal and written, you may struggle to concentrate and understand what’s being discussed.
  • Visual representations of information tend to show only the big-picture view of things. You’ll need to learn to consume information via hearing and reading, too, to dive into the details.

Decision making styles - part 2: The 4 ‘Convincer Process’ traits

Motivations in the Convincer Process group drive the process you use to arrive at a decision, including how much time and evidence you need before you are convinced.

Examples (aka Evidence-based Decision Making)

How many examples do you need before you feel confident moving forward on a decision? Those who are highly motivated toward examples might need several exposures to a person, option or idea before they are convinced.

For example, they might need to see a new hire prove they’re competent at a task five or six times before deciding if the new hire is a good fit for that role. Or, they might need to test out a new software program a couple of times before they determine if it’s useful for their business.

Signs you might be motivated toward examples

  • You rarely make snap decisions.
  • You often say things like, "Let's see them do it a couple of times first,” "Please get me three quotes,” or "I need to talk to them again."
  • You are constantly searching for more evidence.

Strengths to nurture

  • Because you require examples before committing to a choice, you tend to make sound decisions that don’t end up surprising you.
  • You are typically thorough in your decision-making process.

Blind spots to watch out for

  • A high need for examples can result in a slower decision-making process and can make you lose money, especially if you’re in the early stages of a startup where your burn rate is high.
  • If the decision you’re making is about something fairly novel, there may not be enough examples available. In this case, you will have to use other information to make your decision.

Automatic (aka Intuitive Decision Making)

Do you often get a hunch about something and make choices based on a “gut feeling?” If so, you may have a high motivation for being convinced automatically, meaning you draw conclusions based on just one or even a partial exposure.

Signs you may be motivated toward being convinced automatically

  • You tend to be trusting.
  • It doesn’t take you long to draw a conclusion about someone or something.
  • You are flexible about changing your mind after you make a decision.
  • You often say things like, “I have a gut feeling,” “I just know,” or “I trust my intuition.”

Strengths to nurture

  • Going with a gut feeling can make you an efficient decision-maker. You don’t require multiple exposures to something or lengthy explanations.
  • You thrive in business ventures. Our research found that successful entrepreneurs trust their gut instincts 24-34% more than the rest of the working population when it comes to decision-making.

Blind spots to watch out for

  • Saying “I went with my gut feeling” doesn’t always cut it in the workplace. Stakeholders, board directors and employees will want to know the rationale behind your decisions.
  • Making quick decisions based on intuition can lead you astray. Sometimes, you need to step back and carefully consider the facts before committing to an option—especially in major, irreversible decisions.

Consistency (aka Skepticism)

If you continually check your conclusions, reassess your decisions and are never quite convinced—you may have a high motivation for consistency. This refers to your level of skepticism in your decision-making style.

Signs you may be motivated toward consistency

  • You always recheck your own work and that of others.
  • You often say things like, “You can never really be sure,” “We need to keep checking,” or “You can never trust in a situation like this.”

Strengths to nurture

  • You shine in quality control, customer service and other roles with a high level of service and safety.
  • Colleagues know that you have high standards and can rely on you to produce quality work.

Blind spots to watch out for

  • Never being convinced can put a damper on your business ventures. F4S research found that higher levels of skepticism are correlated with business failure.
  • It can also take a toll on your health; high skepticism is linked to anxiety and higher levels of burnout and disease.

Period of time

Do you need a specific period of time to pass before you’re convinced? Those highly motivated toward making decisions over time need days, weeks, months, even years to mull over their options.

Signs you may be motivated toward making decisions after a specific period of time

  • You often say things like, “Let me sleep on it, “It will become apparent over the next three months,” “Let’s do a trial run of this for two months.”
  • Your decision-making process tends to be drawn-out.
  • You don’t like to make hasty decisions.

Strengths to nurture

  • You thrive in slow-moving environments, where the chain of command is long or there is a lot of bureaucracy that makes instant decisions nearly impossible.
  • Because you don’t jump to conclusions, you avoid a lot of the errors that others might miss in their rush to decide.

Blind spots to watch out for

  • Waiting too long to make a decision could cause you to miss out on opportunities.
  • Sometimes, you’ll be forced to make fast decisions, such as in early-stage ventures, and you won’t have time to consider every option for as long as you’d like. This could cause you undue stress, as a rushed process isn’t your preferred decision-making style.

What do you think your decision-making style is?

As you can see, there are many factors and motivations that influence your decision-making style. While researchers have attempted to create a definitive list of “types,” the truth is, we’re all unique, and our tendencies fall on a spectrum.

By now you might be asking yourself ‘What is my decision making style?’ but you don’t have to guess! Take our F4S assessment today to discover yours for free.

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