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Coaching Tip

Decision-Making, by Cathy Bolger

I just had a coaching session with a manager who felt strongly about —using consensus decision-making. At the same time, she was also concerned that she didn't have time to get the rest of her work done.

My coachee knew the importance of getting buy-in, as well as the usefulness of hearing different points of view; however, she failed to balance these with other criteria such as time urgency and importance of the issue.

I talked her through a decision-making model patterned after the decision styles presented by Vroom and Yetton. As a result, she realized that she overused consensus decision-making, and under- used the other more time efficient styles. Each style varies primarily on the degree to include others. Chris Musselwhite, president of Discovery Learning, a consulting firm in Greensboro, has renamed the original styles that I refer to as strategies:

Directing—deciding by relying on one's own knowledge and judgment.

Fact-finding—deciding after gathering specific information from selected others.

Investigating—deciding after sharing the situation and gathering perspectives and advice from key stakeholders.

Collaborating—reserving the right to decide after sharing the situation and creating a dialogue among stakeholders as to possible choices and outcomes.

Teaming—joining with stakeholders to reach a consensus decision. In other words, after all stakeholders who choose to have expressed their ideas, they reach a decision all can live with.

Each of these strategies has potential advantages and disadvantages. For instance, the advantages of choosing the directing strategy (lead decides alone) include time efficiency and the appearance of decisiveness. The potential disadvantage is low buy-in. In addition, overuse of choosing the directing strategy can result in the label of dictator.

At the other end of the of the spectrum, overuse of the teaming strategy, although likely to result in the most buy-in, requires a good process, open minds, and time which is always at a premium.

I asked my coachee to consider the following questions before choosing a decision strategy:

  1. How critical is time?

  2. Do I have the information to make the decision? How helpful would it be to get advice or different perspectives?

  3. What level of commitment or buy-in do I need by those most impacted by the decision?
By asking herself these questions my coachee was able to decide that although she preferred the teaming strategy, matching the strategy to the situation would be most effective and efficient. So, next time you are training or coaching clients on decision-making, consider using the Vroom and Yetton model or contact Discovery Learning for more information on the related assessment.

Musselwhite, Chris. Decision Style Profile, Research Report, Discovery Learning, Inc. April, 2000.
Vroom, V.H. and P.W. Yetton, Leadership and Decision-Making. University of Pittsburgh Press. Pittsburgh, PA, 1973.

Cathy Bolger is a San Diego-based consultant specializing in training Presentation, Meeting and Conflict Management Skills. She can be reached at 619-294-2511 or Cathy@CathyBolger.com.

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