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Welcome to our Communication Tip today, building consensus around your ideas. Let’s address why consensus is important, what consensus actually is, and when you should use it.

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Consensus decision making is an attribute of high-performance teams:

Rather than voting, which leaves clear winners and losers, the best teams use consensus to reach their decisions. When we have a great idea, though, it’s tempting to decide unilaterally to take action or to push the idea through, even if some people disagree. In the long run, this approach never seems to pay off. Decision are better when the major stakeholders are a part of the process because all ideas will be considered fairly. That is, after all, the essence of consensus. Which brings us to what is consensus, exactly? Too often, there is a misperception that a consensus decision means that every single person leaves the meeting thinking, “well, that’s just the best decision ever.

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“I got exactly what I wanted in that meeting.” That’s not very realistic. Practically speaking, a consensus decision is one that happens after everyone has had a chance to communicate needs or preferences and the rational for those preferences. Everyone agrees that the decision reached is something they can support, not necessarily their first preference, but one that they can see the reasoning behind, and they can agree to back it.

You Need to Make the Time in Building Consensus

So, when should you strive for, or even insist on, consensus decision making? First of all, when you have the time. Gathering all these key players together for discussion and collaboration can take time. Do you have the time? How important is the decision? Insignificant decisions, like what brand of index cards to purchase, probably don’t warrant a whole team discussion. How important is team commitment to the idea? If you can’t move forward without your team’s backing, give your team some time.

Consider the Expertise of those Involved while Building Consensus Around Your Ideas

And finally, if it’s your idea, but others are experts in the area, consensus decision makes so much sense. On the other hand, if your team really has no knowledge of the subject, a lengthy discussion may not produce a better decision. So, as you move from a leader-based, unilateral decision making process, to a more team-based consensus decision making, remember that you’ll likely lose some time up front, but in the long run, you’ll have a better decision and more commitment behind it.

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Related: Giving Constructive Criticism Around Workplace

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