"A lot of managers worry too much about consensus. But it's the hardest way to make a decision, because you need a high functioning team. If the team doesn't work well together, you're going to have a slow decision based on groupthink, and the group may even agree on the wrong decision.
So consensus is a 'nice to have', it's not a 'have to have'. If you've got a high-functioning team and they reach consensus, that's great, because they're more likely to own the decision. Makes sense. But when you over-rely on consensus, you're ignoring an inconvenient truth. The real challenge is living with differences. That's what diversity is all about - different ideas, opinions, and priorities.
You're not always going to get your way and you're not always going to agree. So when you ask people to reach consensus, there's going to be winners and losers. Now, every team has their alphas and there's a pecking order. Some opinions carry more weight and the loudest voices and strongest personalities tend to prevail. So people tend to 'go along to get along'. But they often resent the process and they may end up resenting you.
So instead of 'consensus', focus on 'commitment'. When you're not asking people to agree, you're acknowledging the differences and celebrating diversity. When people can agree to disagree, everyone has a voice and everyone feels heard. Most decisions are yours anyway, and you're always the tie-breaker.
Sometimes you're better off saying something like this:
'I'm going to make this decision and I want to hear what everyone has to say. I'd like to reach consensus, but I'd rather get this decision right. So I need to know what each of you think, what each of you really think. Now, I expect some differences and think that's good, so don't hold back. But whatever I decide, I'm going to ask for your commitment. Is that fair?'
Now, when you do that, you put everyone on the same footing. If you've got a healthy team dynamic, great. But this works even if you don't. It works with ad hoc teams, cross-functional teams, new teams, and even dysfunctional teams. So give it a try. And remember, commitment is more important than consensus."
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