By Dawna Jones

You make decisions constantly. You probably don’t think much about what makes one decision effective and another ineffective until things don’t go according to plan. So how do you make all these small and large decisions every moment of every day?

Every person — and every company — uses each of these approaches. The key is to be aware of how you’re making decisions so that you can handle uncertainty and unexpected events with greater confidence. You can also choose one form of decision-making as your select style and master it. Doing so helps you avoid being pulled in many directions by what is unseen and unobserved.

Instinctual decision-making

In instinctual decision-making, decision-makers don’t reflect on the situation or on its meaning; instead they go straight to action. Instinctual decision-making kicks in when you feel you are in serious danger or are in survival mode. Instincts hijack any rational decision-making while simultaneously activating coping strategies that you’ve used successfully in the past. Your body tells your brain to go on high alert, and you feel like you have no options to choose from.

If you work for a company that uses fear, intimidation, and coercion as a management style, chances are you’re in this mode and your decisions are compromised. Fear-based workplaces create a highly competitive, cover-your-butt mentality.

Subconscious decision-making

In subconscious decision-making, you act first and think later, which makes it seem very similar to instinctual decision-making; however, the cause is different. Rather than survival, as is the case in instinctual decision-making, you’re reacting from past memories tucked away in your subconscious.

Feelings like impatience, frustration, or anger show up when an event triggers an old memory and exposes an unresolved situation from the past. Conversely, positive emotions emerge when the situation or conversation touches a happy past memory.

Decisions driven by the subconscious are based on your personal life experiences added to the beliefs formed between birth and six years of age. During those early years, you download and store information from your emotional and social environment directly into your subconscious, creating the lens through which you view all subsequent interactions and experiences. Unless you invest in your personal growth, these subconscious beliefs will serve as the template for the rest of your life.

The majority of companies use beliefs to make their decisions — beliefs they usually don’t remember to update over time. In unaware companies, everyone runs around, dealing with one crisis after another. Although this environment fuels adrenaline, turning work into an extreme sport minus the fun, it doesn’t do much for decision-making.

Decisions go around in circles, over and over again, yet always fail to ultimately address the issue or overcome the problem. This is especially true in a complex situation, where you may resolve one aspect of an issue but neglect to address other parts, which will eventually resurface.

Why? Because in workplaces that run on speed, complexities get ignored as the company falls into a decision-making rut. Essentially, the company fails to step back and examine the situation from a wider view.

When you bottle up your emotions, your brain does its job and stores the pressure in your body so that you can keep functioning. Depression is one possible result. A better alternative is to learn how to regulate and manage your emotions instead of letting them manage you.

Belief-based decision-making

In belief-based decision-making, thoughts precede action, and you make a conscious choice. Basically, a pause occurs between what happens (the stimulus) and your response. During this pause, you have time to reflect and think logically, enabling you to make a deliberate choice. Your decisions are still based on past experience and the beliefs you’ve gathered over the years. However, because hidden emotional issues aren’t hijacking you, you can work with others more effectively.

Both individual decision-makers’ and companies’ beliefs can send decision-making into repetitive loops, particularly if those beliefs are subconscious, as is the case in a company that is blind to the beliefs being used or isn’t in tune with what is going on in the world. Additionally, companies that are running full speed ahead eliminate the pause period that allows them to think and insert logic.

The past beliefs on which this kind of decision-making are based may or may not be true. If the underlying beliefs that run the thinking and decision-making aren’t reviewed and updated, change progresses slowly or not at all. Unless a radical change in mindset occurs, the best a company can expect is incremental change, even when faster change would be better.

Values-based decision-making

Value-based decision-making results when individuals or companies reflect on the values that are important and meet what they consider to be important needs. Because values are chosen or identified, you’re in control of selecting the actions and behaviors that support your values. If you have identified trust as a value, for example, then you embed all the actions associated with trust into your decision-making and your behaviors.

The question being asked is, “How does this decision align with your values?” The answer to this question reveals what’s important and non-negotiable.

Achieving values-based decision-making at a personal level results from feeling emotionally or financially secure.

Evolving to values-based decision-making at a company-wide level results from a shift in mindset. Instead of existing to survive, the mindset shifts to achieving financial security, which engages a different style of management as a way to serve a higher goal and purpose. Every decision is anchored by collectively agreeing upon values about what’s important.

Values-driven decision-making

Values-driven decision-making is the choice for innovative companies that build self-organizing cultures from the get-go. Select public, private, and semiprivate companies that are clear about their contribution to society also employ values-driven decision-making. The company future is collaboratively designed by employees, customers, suppliers, and the community fan base.

Though it’s tempting to take shortcuts when applying values to decision-making, there is a progression as decision-makers learn to distinguish between values-based decision-making (in which the decision aligns with what you deem important) and belief-based decision-making (in which the decision aligns with what you believe to be true).

In essence, values-based decision-making is forward-thinking, whereas belief-based decision-making holds on to the past. With values-driven decision-making, greater clarity emerges, resulting in stronger efficacy.

Graduating to values-driven decision-making is the reward for achieving the internal transformation necessary to fully integrate knowledge gained by learning from past mistakes, paying attention to internal processes, and attending to workplace culture and relationships.

Companies of all sizes can use values to make their decisions, and most companies run by young entrepreneurs start with and stick to values-driven decision-making. The processes, values, decisions, and so on that are used to achieve the result are connected, transparent, and trustworthy.