The Power of Consensus Decision Making

Oct 17, 2023 | 0 comments

During the last 2 decades of consulting, I found that businesses and organizations were highly motivated by the goal of bringing in more money by revenue generation and charitable donations. What I most often found during the engagement were dysfunctional systems and mismatched individuals that caused sustained results to elude them. These were not money problems these were people problems.

Post pandemic we are living through an epidemic of workplace disengagement. Some refer to it as quiet quitting aka doing the barest minimum to get by on the job. By some measures 50% of the American workforce are quiet quitters, a 10-year low. According to Gallup, the drop in employee engagement was measurable during the second half of 2021 concurrent with the rise in job resignations and again in 2022.

Gallup measures employee engagement by asking random samples of the working population about specific workplace elements that link to many organizational outcomes, including profitability, productivity, customer service, retention, safety and overall wellbeing.

Even at its high point, engaged workers were measured at just over 1/3 of the workforce. That is why the following quote from Patrick Lencioni underscores how using consensus decision making that leads to true teamwork is an unstoppable formula for success.

“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”

-Patrick Lencioni

Consensus decision making requires leaders to share authority, responsibility and accountability through a consensus process rather than relying on positional power and authoritarian decision making.

Consensus exists when the group agrees on a single best alternative and each member can honestly make these three statements to every other member.

  • I believe you understand my point of view.
  • I believe I understand your point of view.
  • I believe the decision has been made in an open and fair manner, and I am willing to support the group’s decision whether or not it’s my preference.

Consensus is not everyone in the group agreeing 100% on everything all the time. That’s not a reasonable expectation. A hoped-for outcome is for 2/3 of the participants to agree on the final decision.

Consensus requires a safe environment where all participants can contribute and fully welcome the less popular points of view among the group members. Also, the group members with a less popular point of view, must fully share their thoughts. Not after the meeting, not just with others who agree but with everyone. Leaders must allow the time and space for robust sharing of all ideas. Perhaps some aspect of the less popular point of view will become part of the final decision.

It will come as no surprise that the foundation of consensus decision making is trust. Trust in the process and trust in the presumption of goodwill among the collaborators. The willingness to listen and to speak openly will not happen unless there is trust.

In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni describes the absence of trust as the first dysfunction among team members. He says, “Essentially, this stems from their unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group.”

Lencioni further describes it this way, “Failure to build trust is damaging because it sets the tone for the second dysfunction: fear of conflict. Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas.”

You may ask, does this process of trust building and consensus decision making take more time? The answer is yes! And the increased energy, engagement & team unity will be worth the investment.

The true test of the power of consensus decision making is the increased level of commitment from team members who have invested in the process and are now ready to move to action together to achieve the desired results.

This level of collaboration is a true game-changer for most teams. Lynn Twist, in her iconic work, The Soul of Money describes it this way “Collaboration leads us to and grounds us in sufficiency. You can see it in the way connections value diversity, knowledge, creativity, experience and wisdom of all partners equally and allows us to experience ourselves as active participants in a vital generative process.

In the last 5 years, I’ve shifted my consulting practice to include a strong emphasis on executive coaching, team building and leadership development. Strong, leaders & teams are the ultimate competitive advantage for every business and organization. Consensus decision making is at the heart of this transformation.

If you want to talk about ways that I can help you develop a truly committed team bent on taking action together, use the link below to set up a free introductory consultation. It would be great to talk with you.


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