Executive Decision - How to Make One

Executive Decision - How to Make One

What Is An Executive Decision? Throughout your career you’ll regularly have to make decisions. From the earliest entry level position to the chief executive or managing director role, you’ll be faced with situations where your ability to makes decisions will define your progress. That said the decisions that you make in the early part of your career will differ entirely from those you’ll make later on. Furthermore the factors which affect the way you make decisions also change.

Importance of Making an Executive Decision

The decisions you make in the early stages of your career may have limited and short term impact on you or your company’s progress. Decisions might be about a customer query, regarding your to do list or how you delegate tasks that day. At the more senior level decisions will more likely be taken on long term strategic objectives and therefore the inputs and outcomes of the decision will differ. Taking the role of implementing an executive decision shows leadership and success, and so you should be keen to develop this if you are looking to stand at the head of the table.

Role of an Executive Manager/Director in the Decision Making Process

The executive manager will be the person in charge of the more senior decisions. That person will have risen to the ranks of senior management partly due to their decision making. In their senior executive job however they will be faced with a new form of decision making. The outcomes of the decisions they make will have a greater impact on staff, suppliers and customers perhaps. In the senior roles decisions may be based more often on information from the world around them as well as taking opinion from other team members.

Executive Decision Making Styles

Research from Harvard University took an in depth look into the nature of decision making amongst 120,000 people. It found that decision making techniques could be split into two distinct types; maximisers and satisficers.

The maximisers choose to absorb as much information about a particular challenge as possible before making a decision. They may look at statistics, take advice from colleagues and seek out evidence before making a decision. On the plus side the likelihood is that the decision will be the right one however such a process can be very time consuming which may be detrimental when quick decisions are required.

On the opposite side there are the satisficers who will make quick and decisive decisions as they feel necessary and set sail into one distinct course of action. Although this process saves time the lack of research beforehand increases the risk of the decision being the wrong one.

The studies then took this information and divided decision making styles into a matrix with four distinct decision making types:


For a decisive person time is of the essence therefore they require quick decision making to come up with a plan, followed by delivery and execution. Once they have delivered they can then move on to the next decision. They value people around them who will be clear with information and act with brevity.


The flexible mode values speed as with the decisive decision maker however the flexible decision maker allows sufficient room for adaptability in case a decision is incorrect. This means that a course of action can be changed if the decision is found to be wrong.


In the hierarchic methodology decisions should stand the test of time. Hierarchic decision makers will analyse large amounts of information and openly expect others to contribute information in the decision making process.


The integrative decision maker will encourage a wide range of inputs from multiple parties, even those conflicting their own thoughts. The decision may be multi-layered and take into account many overlapping circumstances with the final decisions being a mix of factors and having a rather broad approach to future action.

Ten Tips for making Better Executive Decisions

  1. Understand that the higher up the career chain the more strategic decisions are and therefore the more involved other people should be. Involving relevant people will not only enhance decisions but improve your leadership capability.
  2. Procrastination can be one of the major hazards of decision making. To ensure you avoid spending too much time reading around the decision set yourself a clear target date to action the decision and stick to it.
  3. Transfer your ideas and your deadlines for the decision onto paper. Having the problem in front of you, using a mind-map or other similar toolkits will help you to sort through the problem and commit to taking action more easily.
  4. Take time to consider worst case scenarios and best case scenarios of specific outcomes. What happens if you take a certain course of action and what happens if you don’t? Consider this for multiple options to help allay fears of negative outcomes.
  5. Encourage your team to bring ideas and thoughts to you in order to come up with the best solution. Your team will value the opportunity to provide their input into the decision and will help to challenge outcomes to get to the best decision.
  6. Consider how you can break the decision and challenge down into smaller component parts in order to minimise the risk of a negative outcome. Each step can then be managed individually.
  7. Have a look around your network to see if there is anyone out there that has recently had to make a similar decision. Can you rely on the expertise of others to give you guidance on a challenging decision?
  8. What are your values suggesting to you in this decision making process? There may be fundamental commercial aspects but if a decision goes against your ethical standpoint will you really be able to follow through with action?
  9. Gather as much information as you possibly can in the time allotted especially if you are higher up the career ladder. With more time and information you will be better equipped to make the right decision.
  10. Ask your partner for input. If you are on the fence there is often no-one better to help coax out of you your natural inclination and reasons why.