Table of Contents, Meeting Management Resources Page Previous Section, Meeting Management Next Section, Meeting Management

Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Gaining Consensus

How do meeting leaders get others to commit verbally to new behaviors? Through consensus! It's defined as group solidarity in sentiment and belief. In practice, distinguishing between consensus and majority rule is sometimes difficult. Majority vote is probably the most common group decision-making procedure used today. Most people consider it democratic since it resembles our election systemó51 percent of the vote wins. The problem is that the other 49 percent may feel a sense of loss and feel compromised. Arguments may occur just for the sake of argument, rather than having a basis in reasoning, and knowing they are in the minority causes some people to withhold their resources from groups. They may be in a position to sabotage implementation as well.

Achieving consensus takes longer, but it is more effective if everyone's contributions are needed for implementation. Even a degree of consensus can be superior to majority vote. In consensus, it is important that everyone in the group feels he or she had a fair chance at influencing the final outcome. This means that sufficient time was allowed for all to state their views, all felt understood, opposite views were heard, and ultimately all will support whatever decision is made. When differences arise, groups will ask for more information, clarify issues, and try for a better outcome.

Group leaders should encourage airing opposing viewpoints and the reasoning and information behind these viewpoints. They must encourage all members to participate, discourage "giving in" to opposing viewpoints just to avoid conflict, and express acceptance of differing viewpoints, especially minority views. The challenge is to get the group to come up with a decision which all can support.Create a sense of gain, not loss! People will feel senses of unity and personal ownership in the decisions made.

GAINING CONSENSUS

(getting all to feel they had a fair chance to influence the outcome)

  • Allow time for all to state their views.

  • Ensure understanding of all views.

  • Encourage opposing viewpoints.

  • Clarify reasoning and information for viewpoints.

  • When differences occur, clarify issues and gather information; try for a better consensus statement.

  • Discourage "giving in" just to avoid conflict.

  • Arrive at a decision all can support.

  • Create a sense of gain, not loss!

Clearly, leader behavior and meeting conduct are important to people in organizations as they carry out decisions that are made. How to ensure that everyone feels heard and viewpoints are stated and clarified? Ask questions!

    Table of Contents, Meeting Management Resources Page Previous Section, Meeting Management Next Section, Meeting Management