Enlisting multiple stakeholders for a common purpose
WHAT IS IT?
Consensus Building is the ability to unite people under a common cause. Leaders who are skilled in this area are able to receive multiple ideas and ultimately draft a solution or plan that gets buy-in from everyone involved.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Consensus Building is a tool for the modern world of work. While decisions should ideally be built on reason and thus acceptable to all involved, oftentimes preferences are on based on personal agenda or groupthink, making this impossible. Yet leaders need the support of at least the majority of the team in order to continue in a healthy way. Consensus Builders are able to take the best ideas in the room, combine and integrate them, and then rally the team under this one conceived plan. Consensus Building is a habitual action of a great leader, and perfecting this skill will provide concrete benefits to the leader as well as to his or her team.
- Active Listening
The first step to building consensus is listening to others’ ideas. Understand what they will need in order to buy-in to the plan you are going to propose. As you may already know, listening is not a passive art. It is a skill that focuses on absorbing information while simultaneously communicating to the speaker that you are engaged. Intentionally practice an attentive posture, paraphrasing, and affirmation, as these will be some of the key skills needed to listen well and make others feel heard.
- Effective Group Facilitation
Second, use your listening and directive abilities in a group setting. Once you have active listening down, practice guiding a group toward making a decision. Field several ideas at once, ask for opinions on those ideas, and collaborate with the group to refine those ideas. Model the way with your own respectful communication and thoughtful engagement.
- Be Candid About How the Decision Will Be Made
Second, be direct and up-front about how the decision will be made at the end of the day. The ideal outcome is obviously to work as a group to find a solution. That cannot always happen. If you are going to be responsible for making the final call, make that clear from the beginning. Say something like, “I hope we can reach a decision during this 90 minute meeting. If not, I will do my best to fairly weigh your respective inputs, and I will get back to you with the final decision tomorrow.” This will encourage buy-in when the decision is finally made, and participants will be less likely to feel as though their voices were not heard.
- Look For Role Models In Consensus Building
Finally, some of the most prominent leaders today share the common factor of Consensus Building. You can see the good and the bad of Consensus Building anywhere from business to politics. Find some examples in your organization, in the news, and in books. Document good and bad examples of consensus building, and then jot down some key takeaways from those living examples.