How to Promote Consensus
One of the biggest problems leaders face is getting a group to reach
consensus. If a decision is made without consensus or agreement from
others in the group, morale and group satisfaction generally suffer.
Many years ago I published the findings of research on how groups
reach consensus. Others have cited the results of my studies often. Here
are five things I found that will help your group reach consensus.
- Keep the group focused on the problem. Encourage each person to
stick to the subject, avoid side discussions, and clarify the issues
as they go.
- Attend to the process as well as the product. Use statements that
focus on the process of discussion as well the product or solution
to the problem. Sometimes group members are so intent on solving the
problem that they neglect making process statements that stimulate
discussion and promote consensus--statements such as: "What you
have said so far makes sense. How do the rest of you feel?" or
"So far we seem to agree on the first two points. Let's move on
to the third" or "I don't believe we've heard from Joe
yet." When both the leader and group members use process
statements effectively, agreement will come sooner.
- Seek different views. Encourage all persons to express their views
and provide information and evidence to support their views.
Expression of a wide range of opinions and views generates better
solutions. At the same time participation by all persons will
increase satisfaction with the discussion and promote consensus.
- Remain open to different views. We all know people who seek the
views of others with no intent to be influenced by them. "Don't
confuse me with the facts; my mind is made up." If you really
want consensus on the best solution and also satisfaction of group
members, remain open to what others say.
- Use group pronouns. Studies show that groups that use more
self-referent words such as I, me, my, and mine,
are less successful in reaching consensus. Those which use more
group pronouns such as we, our, and us reach
consensus more often and to the greater satisfaction of group
members. Talk about what we can accomplish and how to achieve
our objectives. Don't emphasize what I want done or what will
make me happy.
Promote consensus and the group will be happier and more productive.