Sometimes, a meeting leader/facilitator/chair must recognize that the best way forward for the team is to gain consensus on an action item. Gaining consensus as opposed to majority voting lessens the prospect of in fighting between those who publically agree with an item and those who disagree. Consensus is not necessarily a quicker or easier route to take. Instead, consensus is the best route to establish and perpetuate team buy-in and overall commitment levels. It also alleviates the stress that arises when team members are individually singled out when their ideas don’t work. When the team makes decisions as a whole they accept responsibility as a whole, and will be more inclined to find future solutions as a whole.
Here are 4 questions your meeting facilitator should ask each member of the team to foster consensus:
1. Can you live with this action?
2. Will you support this action within the group?
3. Will you support this action outside of the group?
a. If anyone is unable to answer yes to any of the questions, then ask him or her the following question:
4. What has to change in order for you to support this action?
The questions start off vague and get increasingly more incisive. The team member might be able to live with a particular decision, and support it within the group to show team support, but could turn around and speak poorly about the decision outside of the group setting. Asking the first 3 questions pries the lid off of their feelings toward the action item. Asking the 4th question allows them to propose how the issue should be resolved, which leads to more team discussion and hopefully a stronger consensus.
Have you had success or failure gaining consensus on a meeting item? Let us know in the comments.
Diana is President of The Soft Skills Group Inc. She is a senior training & development professional with 20 years of experience in delivery, design & consulting with Fortune 500 companies, Universities & Colleges in Canada, the USA, Mexico and Europe.