Consultative Decision Making


Consultative Decision Making

Consultative decision making works well when you need to gather expertise from a limited group or when you need the support of key members of the group.


Slow Fast
Independent Collaborative
Hierarchical Egalitarian
Private Transparent

I decide, with input.

Consultative decision making means asking for input from a few select individuals, but ultimately reserving the decision for yourself. The consultative model is used when you need additional expertise or when you need to curry political favor.

The consultative process is often done one-on-one, but it can also happen in a small group setting.


  • Yields additional perspectives beyond your own
  • Helps you gauge how the decision will play out politically
  • Gives you access to technical knowledge you may not yourself possess
  • Opportunity to influence key stakeholders


  • People may feel excluded and unimportant
  • Creates the perception of politicking

The Process

  1. Assess the situation and evaluate the obvious choices
  2. Decide on 2-3 people who have information or perspectives that can help you decide
  3. Ask their opinions (leaving time for them to mull/gather facts if needed)
  4. Make the decision and communicate it

Avoid These Common Traps

The grapevine derails the process
Leaders typically want to consult group members in private and aren't ready for the full group to know a decision is being considered. Yet, people do tend to talk and information does tend to spread. Level set with the people you are asking before you ask their opinion. “I want to ask your opinion on something, but it’s important that this doesn’t get out to the group yet because it may not happen and there’s a possibility people will interpret it wrong if they don’t know all the facts. Can this stay in this room for now?” 

Input leading to ownership of the decision
When you ask someone for their input, they can feel entitled to a role in making the final decision. Explicitly retain ownership of the decision by telling folks that even though you are asking for their input, you will be the one to make the final decision. Do be sure, though, to circle back with the people whose perspectives did not prevail, thank them, and tell them why you did not choose their recommendation.  

Throwing others under the bus
When a leader is questioned by the group for a bad or controversial decision, it's easy to lay the blame on the people who gave you input. This not only kills their morale, but it ultimately makes you look like a weak leader. If you reserved ultimate authority for the decision, take ultimate responsibility for its outcome.

Making your choice seem personal instead of rational
If you continually consult the same people in the group, it can appear that you choose feelings and relationships over facts. Be sure to change up whose opinions you ask for. 

Alternative Models

If you can’t get useful input from others, you may have to make an autocratic decision.

If you do gather input, but there's absolutely no consensus and the decision is relatively low-risk, try a stochastic decision.