Is it really a good time to bring up consensus in the workplace? Well, yes. On any given day, you can pick your favorite platform for blogs and articles on business culture and fill your mind with discussions about lack of trust, toxic cultures, and lackluster enthusiasm about work. The idea of fostering more agreement and advancing your culture is refreshing. At a time when we read more about separation than cohesion, leaders need to revisit and reap the benefits of consensus.
Are the Benefits of Consensus Worth the Investment?
For many, it’s hard to shake the baggage attached to the word. When I bring up the value of consensus, I’m prepared for a lukewarm reception. Any attempt at creating and sustaining a healthy leadership culture will cost you something. Consensus building requires a serious investment. When leaders push back against consensus, it exposes a list of predictable internal messages.
Consensus-building is a time-killer.
I don’t have time to meet about every decision.
Consensus-building is for weak decision-makers who want to test the water before they take a stand.
Consensus-building gives voice to naysayers.
I can’t gather input from everyone.
Consensus-building is something I tried; it just doesn’t work in my organization.
Most people would rather I just tell them what to do.
I’m never surprised when the word “consensus” triggers pushback.
First, I’m not surprised because each version of the list of negative internal messages connects with reasonable concerns. The practice of building consensus can rub against efficiency, confidence, and traction.
Another reason the mention of consensus-building sparks discomfort is because certain vestiges of what has defined strong leadership are hard to shake. How many of our images of leadership heroics wield a top-down persona? These images become our measure of what makes a leader effective and memorable. Stories of decisive leaders who commanded the ship made decisions that had to be made and only shared information on a need-to-know basis affect us more than we realize. Whether we readily admit it, we carry some of those images of leadership around with us. No wonder many leaders struggle with feelings of inadequacy when they measure themselves against leadership myths. And these images of leadership leave little room for the value of building consensus.
Meanwhile, expectations and perspectives have changed. The pathway toward creating trust and healthy culture is changing. Images of leaders as the Chief-Problem-Solvers who reside at the top of an organizational chart are fading. Challenges are complex, and uncertainty grows more potent. In a recent Leadership Think Tank, InitiativeOne Founder and CEO Dr. Fred Jonson emphasize the contrast between leaders who “tell people what to do” and leaders who believe in the valuable contributions of team members. Dr. Fred warned that leaders who lose their belief in people are finished. People are priceless. Few things reinforce value as well as collaborative problem-solving.
In the current business climate, check the pulse of your team members. Listen to the voices of those who serve your clients, deliver your products, and carry your message. We hear consistent messages, and they make a compelling case for why consensus-building matters.
Three Reasons Team Consensus Matters
Your team members are tired of disagreement that doesn’t move the needle toward problem-solving. There is fatigue. Weariness. Look closely. Listen to others. It’s there. It’s real.
Your team members are tired of isolation. Lack of consensus separates. People want to work together. They are lonely. They want to belong, and they want to contribute. Relationships matter. Healthy relationships matter a lot.
Your team members have a voice and desire opportunities to engage with others. They are tired of being devalued. People have ideas, aspirations, and hope is fuel. When the hope tank is empty, bad things happen.
Three Ways to Invest in Team Consensus
Your team is hungry for agreement.
Step back and clarify why you exist and where you are going. Before engaging in disagreement, reframe what matters most. Does my team understand and agree with a vision that compels us to pull together? Can I see beyond my immediate concern and connect with something that promotes a common good? Consensus starts with a wider frame and focuses attention and energy on what is most important.
Your team is hungry for alignment.
Consensus aligns actions with purpose. Alignment restores the power of consensus without sacrificing individual identity. Alignment is active, not passive. Consensus is not Group Think. Alignment is forged with open and honest debate. It’s tested with challenging questions and evaluated in real-time.
Your team is hungry for affirmation.
Team consensus begins with the belief that we are better together. It is rooted in the intrinsic value of the individual people on your team. Learn to affirm. In public and private, affirm the contributions of others.
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