Consensus Leadership Culture
"Let's put it to a vote!"
This phrase often comes to mind when coming to a consensus. From my time at school to my expectations and experiences of the workplace, voting seems like the most effective way to build consensus around a situation. It's the way we've always done it, you might say. This practice actually reflects more on the ease of a vote than the reality of its effectiveness as a leadership tool (a poor one at that).
Many reactive leaders misunderstand the critical tenants of a consensus-driven culture. Creating a consensus culture has little to do with the act of a vote. It has more to do with the culture you've created before anything like a vote needs to take place. It isn't "kumbaya" or taking a vote. Instead, it is your opportunity to create a business platform where ideas flourish, and everyone feels valued.
It won't happen overnight. It isn't a quick fix. It's messy, but it's worth it.
1. "What are you thinking?"
Proactive leaders understand the power of curiosity. Creating trust within a team that feels unknown or disrespected is challenging. Top-down leadership built upon a foundation of majority rule will only find increased dissent and opposition from the members left out of decision-making processes. Leaders must create a culture where everyone is valued, trusted, and included.
As new generations of leaders enter the workplace, there is a significant shift taking place. A new school of leadership is entering the forefront, and diverse thinking is no longer just an initiative. It is a necessity to compete in the marketplace. It is a necessity for your culture to thrive. Resist the urge to become a "Chief Telling Officer" and choose to become a "Chief Teaching Officer" instead. World-class leaders understand the power of questions.
Questions are an opportunity to teach. Questions are an opportunity to learn. Questions are an opportunity for growth.
Questions create a foundation for ideas to flourish and problems to be solved. For this to take place, you must ask, listen, and engage. People have answers. People want to help. Leaders provide pathways for their teams to work together toward the best solutions. Unlock the gift of other people in your life!
2. Embrace The Power of Conflict
You cannot have consensus without high trust, deep listening, and respectful honesty. Finding the best solutions to the problems your team has is tough. The discussion will be intense. But proactive leaders have no concern about where the ideas originate. There's an understanding that humility works for the betterment of the team. As Dr. Fred Johnson said during our January Think Tank, "If you have to tell everyone you're the boss, you may be the boss, but you aren't the leader!" If your team feels it isn't safe to share ideas, they will clam up. They will hold it in, and resentment will grow beneath the surface.
Consensus cultures will not sustain themselves. If you stop working at it, you'll begin to veer off course. Changing isn't easy, and building trust doesn't come without conflict. Conflict is your best opportunity to accelerate trust in your team. It feels counterintuitive, but handling conflict well will strengthen your team. As that trust strengthens over time, you will find yourself more apt to deal with drama before it grows in the dark, and you'll be able to solve problems more quickly.