How to Be the Consensus Builder at the Office … a Big Part of Every Effective Team
Some things are easy to come to a consensus about—don’t wear white after Labor Day unless you’re a husband over the age of 65—while other things may never reach a consensus—New York style pizza is better than Chicago Deep Dish because you can eat it while walking around without wearing it all over the front of your shirt. However, reaching a consensus on things is vital at work. And, being a consensus builder is one of the most sought-after traits for any employee.
Consensus building is the art of having everyone come to agreement on how to handle a situation rather than having the decision made by the majority, the loudest, or the most powerful. It means “overwhelming agreement that goes as far as possible toward meeting the interests of all stakeholders,” suggests mit.edu. As consensus is being created, all involved may not be in 100 percent agreement, but a solution may be developed with which everyone can be satisfied.
- Come in with an open mind
- Welcome feedback or disputed ideas. Encourage it by asking “how” that could work, suggests Jill Huselton for intercall.com.
- Use data to support ideas. A graph or chart provides a good visual where possible, or just mentioning the figures can be effective.
- Find points of agreement
- Define the disagreements
- Give up the need to be right
- Let everyone save face. If you attack someone’s ideas or disagree, you put them on edge. Once this happens, reaching consensus is harder.
- Influence others by arousing specific emotions such as passion, respect, enthusiasm or outrage
Questions encourage the ideas and involvement of everyone present. This discussion can help your group explore possibilities.
Here are examples of consensus-building questions:
- Do I want to win the argument or win the relationship? Am I willing to let this go?
- How can I be part of the solution?
- Do they feel they are being heard enough?
- What do they want?
- Why do they want what they want?
Ask Others …
- How does everyone feel about this plan or process?
- What do you need from me?
- Be direct: What is going on?
- Tell me more about …
- Help me understand
- Does anyone have a sense that we might be missing something here?
When you’re part of a work team, everyone’s input is important. But reaching one final decision can be tricky, especially if the team is diverse. Building consensus takes open minds and discussion.