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The MBTI Z-Model for Decision Making

Leaders are often called upon to make tough decisions. They’re expected to look at all sides fairly and then determine the best path to put plans into action, leading others through their example and careful consideration. To be successful, leaders need to learn how to make decisions efficiently and effectively while taking into consideration what’s best for their teams and the organization as a whole.


At Success Labs, we use the Z-Model to teach decision making to developing leaders. The Z-Model or Zig-Zag Process™ Model, based on a model created by Isabel Myers and further developed by Gordon Lawrence, uses preferences from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, or MBTI®, to help leaders consider questions, deal with ambiguity and make decisions to move their team or organization forward. Here’s how it works.

The Preferences

MBTI philosophy holds that people have several “preferences” when it comes to how they take in information, analyze it and then act on it. The one most people are familiar with is the “extrovert/introvert” preference: Extroverts tend to make the best decisions by talking about them with other people; introverts would rather go off by themselves and think things over before coming back with a solution.

In the Z-Model, decisions are made by considering both sides of two of the four MBTI preference dichotomies: How people gather information and how they make decisions about the information they have.

The two dichotomies are:

  • Sensing/Intuition. People who show a preference for “Sensing” tend to trust the facts and evidence they have about a decision they need to make; people with an “Intuition” preference would rather consider all the possible outcomes before they decide.
  • Thinking/Feeling. “Thinkers” will see decisions as a chessboard that can be approached strategically; “feelers” will often consider how decisions affect others.

By moving from sensing to intuition to thinking to feeling, the decision-maker follows a Z-shape to ensure all sides are considered.


How Does it Work?

Leaders faced with a tough decision can work through the Z-Model to ensure they’ve considered all sides of the problem.

Here’s how it works:

  • Sensing. First, you should take a “sensing” approach to the decision. This is the time to list all the facts about the situation and get more data if needed. Make sure the facts are all clear and relevant to the decision at hand.
  • Intuition. This step is about possibilities. After considering the facts, this is the time to brainstorm solutions, and no idea is too wild. You can jot down ideas that could lead to a decision, considering multiple possibilities.
  • Thinking. At this point, it’s time to analyze what you’ve got. You should consider the consequences of the different solutions available, and identify which ones are realistic. Considering the decision dispassionately, as if you aren’t involved, can sometimes help.
  • Feeling. Finally, you will need to consider the possible effects the decision will have on people. What do you think others’ reactions will be? Can you live with those reactions?

While developing leaders in particular use the Z-Model to learn how to make big decisions, anyone can use it to consider all sides of a situation and deal with ambiguity. Considering an issue through different preferences can help make the answer clear.

Looking for ways to develop high-potential employees into leaders? Contact us to learn about our leadership development and coaching offerings.

Success Labs is a leadership development and management consulting firm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years, our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.


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