"If you call a meeting to make a decision, you have to explain how that decision is going to be made, and you need to do it right up front. If it's not clear up front, you're wasting everyone's time. You're wasting time time till the people figure out what's really going on.
There are three ways to make a group decision.
- You listen and then you make the decision.
- You let the majority make the decision, or
- You force consensus.
Remember, whatever approach you take is going to influence how people act in that meeting.
- If you want input before you make the decision, then people tend to give you their honest advice, because they want you to value what they have to say and their credibility is at stake.
- Now if everyone gets a vote, the majority is going to rule; then people tend to lobby one another because they have a vested interest in the outcome and their self interests are at stake.
- If you want people to reach consensus, then people are going to start competing. They're going to jockey for position because someone is going to win the debate and someone's going to have to fall in line.
Now it sounds like I'm against consensus decision making, I'm not. But I will say it's way overused and it's often misused. We've all been in meetings where the boss says they want consensus, but the decision's already been made. The meeting is just to get people to fall in line. If you do this, you're going to create more dissension.
Consensus decisions only work when there's a very healthy team dynamic, when there are shared values, purpose and priorities, and a willingness by everybody in that room to put group outcomes above personal gain.
So explain upfront how the decision is going to be made and clarify what you want out of the conversation. If you called the meeting, you've got to facilitate the meeting.
If you're going to make the decision, encourage different points of view, because when people are given advice, they're less competitive. They don't have to poke holes in somebody else's idea, and they just have to explain their thinking. Others in the room tend to be more open too. If the majority is going to rule, encourage healthy debate and don't weigh in with your opinion. People are going to want to see which way you're leaning and you don't want to tip the scales.
Remember, consensus means agreement. People don't always have to agree, but they have to be heard. And when the discussion becomes a competition, people tend to talk past each other. So define the decision upfront, define how the decision will be made, and facilitate the discussion appropriately. These meetings are going to run way more smoothly, you'll make faster decisions, and the outcomes are going to be much, much better."
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