The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Reaching consensus

It was one of these teams leading an association that saw their engagement as a source of pleasure. They wanted to enjoy the extra time they invested and focused on keeping a harmonious relationship in the team. In addition, the leader was conflict-avoidant.

It is a combination that can easily be found in any leadership team. It is a perfect setting to establish conflict or apathy in the team.

Intentions can backfire, especially if the dynamics are not well understood.

Consensus is not a guarantee for harmony, especially if consensus is the objective.

There are many situations in which people can debate different approaches to a question to then find themselves agreeing on how to proceed. In such a case consensus happens.

But if consensus needs to be achieved, everyone in the conversation can step out of it by adding more ideas and doubts. It’s a conversation that can go on endlessly.

That is until a deadline appears.

Such long debates with a looming deadline frustrate team members, they eventually start to wonder about the fights they can and should pick and give up on this specific debate. They’ll find themselves just wanting the debate to end. Any decision will be better than continuing the debate. It silences them in this and in other debates as they start to “choose their fights.”

The deadline can also influence the leader. Whenever he becomes anxious about the deadline but doesn’t want to compromise his idea of consensus, he can find himself compromising on fairness. It’s how individual team members will experience the process as unfair and consequently become less supportive of the decision.

The alternative is to create a space allowing for a debate in which everyone can be heard and can contribute until it becomes clear if consensus can be achieved. If it can’t the process changes and the person most apt to make that decision takes the guidance of the team to make his decision. It allows everyone to contribute to the decision and become aware of how their contribution is integrated. Such an approach also speeds up the decision-making process.

The importance here is that people know that sometimes decisions go another way. Whenever they consider the process as fair, they can accept to become supportive of the decision independently from whose it was.


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