Team members who have worked closely for a period of time forge commitments and accept personal responsibility (PR) to and for others. They will help each other, personally and professionally. They have found and established ways of working together that promote staying focused on their task and outcome. These relationships require time to become established a high level of commitment and team cohesion is harder to develop in a “one shot” situation.
A team leader is a resident “facilitator” whose responsibility is to help them wrestle with the meaning of being committed to each other and mutually responsible for the outcome of their business problems. In the role of “facilitator” team leaders help them to stay focused on their task and promote positive outcomes. Teams must reach consensus on many issues.
Consensus is a group decision-making process in which group members develop, and agree to support, a decision in the best interest of the whole. Consensus does not mean 100% agreement, which is almost impossible to achieve in any diverse group. Consensus does mean 100% commitment to decisions achieved by a thorough discussion and participation among team members.
Consensus occurs when each member of the team believes that they had a chance to speak, and has been heard. Each member has either persuaded the group to his or her way of thinking, or has accepted the position of the group, possibly with reservation, but always with a commitment to its implementation. This approach to decisions takes time, trust, and willingness to compromise. Eventually, the consensus building process yields team synergy with the accompanying bottom line results.
There are some practical methods to test the validity of an apparent agreement or consensus. Consensus has been reached when all team members can answer truthfully in the affirmative the following four questions:
- Do I feel that I have been “listened to” and “understood” by the other members of my team? (Whether or not I have been able to convince them to my point of view is not the issue; only whether I can say honestly that I believe I have been listened to and given the opportunity to fairly present my case.)
- Do I feel that I have “listened to” and “understood” the opinions and points of view of all other members of the team?
- In the absence of being persuaded or persuading others to my point of view, can I or others honestly say, “I may be wrong, however I support” the decision of the group.”
- Outside the team meeting, when asked to explain or defend the decision of the team, can I respond in a manner which supports and explains the decision of the group?
Also, consider these five guidelines as your team works toward consensus on a particular issue.
- Avoid arguing for your own priorities. Present your position as lucidly and as logically as possible. Listen to the other members’ reactions and consider them carefully before you press your point.
- Do not assume that someone must win and someone must lose when a discussion reaches a stalemate. Instead, look for the next-most acceptable alternative for all parties.
- Do not change your mind simply to avoid conflict and to reach agreement and harmony. When agreement seems to come too quickly and easily, be suspicious. Explore the reasons and be sure everyone accepts the solution for similar or complementary reasons.
- Avoid conflict-reducing techniques such as majority vote, averages, coin-flips, and bargaining. When dissenting members finally agree, do not feel that they must be rewarded by having their own way on some later point.
Differences of opinion are natural and expected. Seek them out and try to involve everyone in the decision process.
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