Many groups choose to use consensus process because they want an alternative to the organizational model in which the “leaders” decide everything. They seek a more horizontal structure which honors everyone’s contribution.
These good intentions often result in one or more of the following, unhelpful scenarios:
Inhibition. Members are afraid to speak their mind or make proposals because they do not want to be seen as “taking control.” So they hold back and the group muddles along without the benefit of their insights and opinions.
Lack of inhibition. Members who are accustomed to “being in charge” in other contexts continue to behave as if they are the anointed leaders. Often unaware of the ways they shut others out of the process, they speak forcefully, listen little and assume that they are “right.”
The real promise of consensus is not that it creates “leaderless groups” but that it fosters groups that are FULL OF LEADERS.
Consensus does not just happen. Certain conditions must prevail in order for a group to reach a clear agreement that (almost) everyone will support.
IIFAC’s recently published, free Guide to Consensus Process mentions five factors that can increase the odds that your group can effectively use this approach for making key decisions.
Commitment to learning a new way to discuss and decide important issues.
Training. Get help to avoid falling into the common mistakes made by groups who lack a solid understanding of how the process works.
Shared vision and joint action. The group needs to have some sort of common purpose and an intention to take action together. Otherwise, why bother with consensus?
Membership is defined and stable but not closed. Consensus functions best when there is trust and caring among the members of the group. These conditions are more likely prevail when members know who else is in the room.
Good facilitation. As a professional facilitator, I am biased on this issue! But I am also a participant in many meetings and have seen the damage that can be done when no one takes responsibility for preparing an agenda, keeping the discussion on track and at the appropriate moment, carrying out the decision-making process.
People complain a lot about bad meetings – and for good reason. Boring, unproductive meetings are a worldwide plague. Participants leave frustrated by the waste of their time spent in these meetings and leaders are upset by the listless participation and lukewarm commitment of their teams.
This is a fixable problem
As professional facilitators, we study the causes of the boredom, frustration and low productivity of meetings in the workplace. One interesting finding is that the practices that produce the complaints are similar in all the sectors and countries we have worked in. To think about the number of bad meetings that occur worldwide every day and their enormous economic and emotional cost, is, for us, a call to action.
You are the change agent!
We created this guide aimed primarily at those of you who, because of your role in an organization, are called upon to convene and lead meetings. Like many of your peers, you have never received training in “effective meetings” so your only “teachers” have been your own bosses – who make the same mistakes that for lack of a better example, you are perpetrating. How to break this vicious cycle of bad meeting habits?
If you have a responsibility for convening meetings, you are in a position to transform them into stimulating, productive encounters. In this Guide we show you five common mistakes and how to correct them. Get started today!
Need help improving your meetings? Contact us to schedule a free consultation to discuss your coaching or training needs.