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Myth: I am always part of the team

In the Great Recession, it has not been hard to picture the following situation:

  The leadership team of the company is deciding on cost reduction changes to the company. Some of the options may be viewed as inconsistent with stated company values. The leadership team is split on the course of action, yet convinced that if significant changes in financial performance do not occur, the company may fail. However, whatever the decision, the entire company must support it and work together to survive.

 This situation requires a special tool that successful teams use: a “consensus” decision. The key is in the need for all to support and work for together for the successful action. This requirement of unanimous support is in alignment with Webster’s (2nd) definition: “group solidarity in sentiment and belief”. There is a very strong emphasis on the solidarity. In fact, it is “active” solidarity, for once consensus is achieved, the group’s position is solid and unanimous. All disagreement and discussion becomes part of the confidential history of the team. Consensus is usually only required for the most difficult and potentially unpopular decisions.

For a team to be effective, such consensus must respect the integrity of the team. Team members cannot follow the example of today’s politicians: once the meeting is over, individual team members publicly air their disagreement with the decision.  For the team to truly work with high levels of trust, once consensus is achieved, there should be complete solidarity with the outcome by all team members. To all outside the team, it should appear to be a unanimous decision.

This level of agreement requires significant emotional cost: someone may have to support a position that is different than his or her own personal choice.  Because of the cost, this process must only be used rarely, when solid team support is required. Agreement to abide by a consensus must be a requirement for team membership.

To achieve such consensus decision requires complete and open discussion where all opinions are heard. Active listening and mind mapping or brainstorming techniques may be used to capture all points presented and allow for the group to work its way to a solution. Every team member should be allowed to present his or her opinions and supporting reasons.

It is recommended that active listening be used to ensure that all are correctly heard.  This feeling of being heard is critical and discussion should continue until all key participants feel understood.  Understanding does not mean that there will be agreement, although that occasionally happens, and the process eliminates the need for consensus action.

If all discussion is complete and there is still disagreement, the team leader must make a decision for a course of action, which the team then actively supports. This decision may be for a less popular position, as the leader may identify that position as most in line with the values and mission of the team.  Remember, the value of the majority opinion does not determine the decision as it would in a democracy.

This consensus process is useful in reducing the disruptive impact of passive resistance techniques occasionally used by the members not yet fully committed to the team’s success or values.  The unanimous position after consensus reduces the ability to use an emotional situation to manipulate and weaken the role of the team.

 

Have you used this consensus technique?

 

Do you recall a team decision where you wish you had?

 


Empowerment Is

Empowerment Is
  • Freedom of thought
  • Freedom to express thoughts
  • Free flow of knowledge and data
  • Personal plans and actions are based on a clear understanding of shared values, strategy, and business case. (Clear sense of purpose)
  • Freedom to challenge decisions and activities based on a clear understanding of shared values, strategy, and business cases.
  • Having mutual respect across the organization such that authority level is not a factor in personal influence.
  • Personally adjusting activities and skill sets to fit the business needs.
  • Delivering value to the business in a way that is unique for each individual, yet adequately consistent.
  • Confrontation is a learning experience
  • Implementing new ideas in a way others can contribute and improve on the idea
  • Actively seeking and giving feedback for improvement and learning.
Empowerment is not
  • Not thinking
  • Fear to express thoughts
  • Restricted flow of knowledge and data
  • Following the rules or holding back until asked. (Fuzzy sense of purpose) Doing only the work that is clearly in my job or serves my personal needs.
  • Complaining, self serving, or challenging without basis.
  • Living within a tight job description
  • Judging/responding to others based on job description/title
  • Waiting for a personnel review or required training or to be told by supervisor to make adjustments.
  • Delivering results in an exactly specified way.
  • Confrontation is a win / loose experience
  • Implementing rigid ideas.
  • Feedback is looked on as an assessment.