Most people know how to make decisions by themselves, but in a team environment the process becomes more complicated. How does a group of people, with unique personalities and different levels of knowledge and experience, come together and make decisions? How do you keep the group from getting stuck in endless debate? How do you assure that all team members are on board and willing to support the final decision?
The answer is through building consensus – a powerful process if implemented correctly that can help unite employees around a common goal.
Consensus involves group decision making where all members are given the opportunity to be heard. It is important to note that reaching consensus does not necessarily mean a unanimous decision by the group. The consensus process only guarantees that once a final decision is made all group members feel like their ideas were at least considered.
Here are five ways to build consensus for group decisions.
1. Develop the right attitude. Too often groups focus all their energy on debating ideas. The goal of this approach is to convince, sell, and change minds. Sometimes it works, but more often it creates a win/lose situation where one person’s idea prevails over another’s.
Effective dialogs require a win/win attitude. In this type of environment, all team members understand the primarily goal is to find a solution. Individual dynamics, such as personalities, job titles, tenure, etc., are secondary. Everyone on the team believes it’s their job to contribute to the success of the group. No one works toward personal goals at the expense of the team.
2. Set clearly defined goals. No decision-making process, whether by group or individual, can succeed unless the goals are clearly defined. As a manager, you must make sure all participants agree on the team’s purpose and understand the problem that needs to be solved. Clear communication is vital when defining the goals for a group.
3. Foster an atmosphere of open communication. Employees will not speak freely in an atmosphere where new ideas are not welcome. Managers must work to create an environment of open communication. This can be done by encouraging everyone to listen attentively and respectfully to each other, requesting that everyone express their ideas in clear, concise terms, and asking everyone to keep an open mind and be willing to accept different points of view.
4. Gather data. In order to find solutions, you have to be knowledgeable of the issue. To be an effective group member, you have to be willing to become as educated as necessary about the issue to assure the best outcome. What information do you need before you can make an informed decision? Are there assumptions that need to be questioned? Have the needs of all stakeholders been presented?
5. Support the decision. After encouraging employees to work together to forge consensus, it’s important that the management team supports the final decision. This is a critical step because it reinforces the entire process. The last thing employees want is to spend time and energy working with a group to build consensus only to have the group’s final decision ignored by management.
The Awareness and Prioritize modules in Callibrain help facilitate the process of building consensus on strategic and tactical goals. To learn more about Callibrain please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.