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Adjusting your decision making style...
Self Excellence » Personal Development

Chrm Message From: Total Posts: 20 Join Date: 07/12/2006
Rank: Executive Post Date: 07/12/2013 05:25:12 Points: 100 Location: India

To move up the ladder, it's important that your method of making decisions develops as you do. This excerpt from Harvard Business Review reports on research drawn from a comprehensive Korn/Ferry International database.

When we began our research, we expected to find that managers' predominant decision-making styles would change as they progressed through their careers. But the patterns that jumped right out of the data were even more sharply defined than we could have imagined. We found that decision-making profiles do a complete flip over the course of a career: That is, the decision style of a successful CEO is the opposite of a successful first-line supervisor's. In the
leadership (or public) mode, we see a steady progression as managers move up in the ranks toward openness, diversity of opinion, and participative decision making, matched by a step-by-step drop in the more directive, command-oriented styles. In the thinking (or private) mode, we see a progression toward the maximizing styles where an executive prefers to gather a lot of information and think things through and, at the highest executive levels, an uptick in the
styles favoring one course of action.

There's a logic as well as an interdependence to the way the two aspects of decision making evolve. As you move up the ladder, you move further and further away from where the action takes place, so it is easy to lose touch with what's really going on in the organization. It's essential to use a leadership style that keeps the information pipeline open and the data flowing freely, so you have access to the best information and analysis. That's why the flexible and integrative styles dominate at the senior executive level. The open pipeline in turn feeds the evolving thinking style, where the ever more analytic,  information-hungry senior executive is focused on finding the single right answer. In public, the senior executive presents a willingness to consider options so as to encourage people to offer information. In private, he or she uses that information to zero in on a single option or, at a minimum, to narrow the options down to a workable strategy. These patterns in both public and private decision styles become even more pronounced when you isolate the most successful managers, who become even more open and interactive in their leadership styles and even more analytic in their thinking styles as they progress in their careers.

So when does the major shift in styles occur? Our data show that in both the public and the private modes, decision styles tend to cluster early in the  management hierarchy. Somewhere between the manager and director levels,executives find that approaches that used to work are no longer so effective. At this point, we see managers' styles falling into a "convergence zone," where no one style stands out as being used more or less than the others. From then on,
decision styles fan out again, though in the opposite direction, with different styles prevailing.

The most successful managers come to the convergence zone more quickly than the least successful, our research reveals, and continue to adjust their styles as their careers progress. The least successful seem to stagnate once they hit the convergence zone; their styles remain clustered rather than evolving in new directions. It appears that even though the least successful people do notice, at around the director level, that something has changed, they can't figure out what they should do differently. So they try a little of everything: Their
styles are directive yet participative, action focused yet open to alternatives. The bottom 20 percent of managers get stuck in this "uncertainty zone," where they often remain for the rest of their careers.

The second level of management is a key transition point in an up-and-coming executive's career. At lower levels, the priority is to keep everyone focused on immediate tasks and getting the work done. At higher levels, that doesn't work anymore. Decision styles become more about listening than telling, more about understanding than directing. Managers must drop the attachment to the hard-edged decisive and hierarchic modes of leadership in favor of the more
inclusive flexible and integrative styles. This is a perilous time, a point where many otherwise talented managers crash and burn, because it's natural to keep doing things the way that worked well in the past.

We saw the impact of this transition in the case of Jill, a second-level manager for a large petrochemical company. When we initially met Jill, she was a first-line supervisor in a power-generation facility at the company. When we met her again, she had earned an MBA and was managing a department that functioned as a liaison between an operating unit and company headquarters. In a casual conversation, Jill told us that she was enjoying the job - now that she had figured things out. At first, she had found her new responsibilities confusing and distressing. But one morning she realized that although she had important things to do that day, none of them had to be resolved immediately. She could take some time, collect information, and seriously consider her choices. This was in sharp contrast with her previous job, where everyday things had to be decided and done on the spot. Just recognizing the difference eased the stress
considerably and opened Jill's eyes to the change needed in the way she handled decisions.

We see a secondary transition point taking place in the thinking styles of managers around the mid-executive and director levels. This is where the integrative style reaches its zenith, a time when managers must think creatively and float a range of ideas to be passed upstairs for consideration. Beyond the director level, the pressure to think in an exploratory and creative way drops off, and more focused thinking again becomes important for success. Increasingly, managers must narrow down their choices and commit people and resources to particular plans. They are ultimately responsible for their decisions; they must be able to call the shots and in rare instances call them on the spot.

[Kenneth R. Brousseau is the CEO of Decision Dynamics, a firm specializing in the development and application of behavioral assessment technology, based in Thousand Oaks, California. The late Michael J. Driver was a co-founder of Decision Dynamics and a professor of management at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. Gary Hourihan is the global president of Korn/Ferry International's Leadership Consulting Business in Los Angeles. Rikard Larsson is a co-founder of Decision Dynamics AB, based in Lund, Sweden, and a professor at Lund University's School of Management and Economics.]

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