Do You Seek Agreement… or Consensus?

What is the decision making process like in your organization? Do you seek honest evaluations from a variety of sources, or do you expect your team to generally agree with your opinions? It’s become something of a cliché that leaders should avoid surrounding themselves with “yes men,” but in my experience, many business owners make exactly that mistake.

What does a healthy decision making process look like? There are several traits that every effective process has in common:

Multiple perspectives. Not just multiple voices, multiple perspectives. It’s important that you actively seek input from a variety of perspectives… if that means asking an employee from each department to help you make a decision, do it! The key point here is that individuals with different experiences and different areas of expertise may see problems or opportunities that never would have occurred to you. Don’t let their viewpoints go to waste.

Common goals. Just as important as seeking varied perspectives is ensuring that your decision making team embraces the goals and mission of your company as you do. If all participants aren’t on the same page with regards to overall goals and objectives, their insights aren’t going to be as valuable. Make sure that your goals and objectives are well articulated and understood by everyone.

Honesty… even when the truth is unpopular. This is the key point that you need to take away from this discussion. In a healthy decision making process, participants don’t hesitate to share their insights and opinions, even if they may be unpopular with everyone else in the room. As the boss, you need to set the tone in this regard by welcoming input that challenges your thinking and your opinions. It’s human nature to dislike criticism—but ask yourself this: would you rather have a flaw in your marketing plan pointed out in a meeting, or would you rather launch the plan and have it fail miserably? Having the flaw pointed out in the meeting may hurt your pride or even make you angry, but launching a flawed campaign will cost you real money. Do your best to ensure that all potential problems are spotted during your planning meetings, not in the marketplace.

As the boss, it’s easy to get people to agree with you. Creating a diverse environment in which team members are encouraged to think critically and question your decisions takes work. But it’s worth it. Creating real debate and encouraging disagreement during planning sessions will give you a much greater chance of spotting mistakes before it’s too late, and it will allow you to take advantage of opportunities that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. Your goal shouldn’t be to secure agreement… it should be to build a consensus.

Have you created a culture of debate and consensus in your workplace? How did you accomplish this? How has it benefited your decision making? Leave a comment and share your thoughts below!