Can it be true... can striving to reach consensus not achieve what we are looking for?  

People say my middle name is “Collaboration.” I love to work with teams aiming toward common goals. We are richer from diversity of thought, and indeed the sum is greater than any part. 

Yet, after receiving input from many and listening with respect, I sometimes get paralyzed – striving to reach consensus before making decisions. The reality is that after everyone weighs in, there will still be differences of opinions. I may even get a hung jury.

But you ask, isn’t that our goal…to consider everyone’s point-of-view and then together work towards a solution everyone agrees with? That can take a long, long time or may never occur. That is when consensus management doesn’t work. It eats away at morale and uses up valuable time. That is why we need leaders that include and consider everyone’s viewpoint, the collective wisdom, and then make the call or final decision, as “enlightened leaders”.  

I’ve noticed this reluctance to make the hard decisions, after listening to everyone’s thoughts, is more common with nonprofits. By their very nature, Executive Directors, so often characterized as being empathetic, “stall out” trying to be conciliatory and liked by all stakeholders.

But this can be dangerous. Social mission organizations need to make hard business decisions, and leaders in this role must strive to see the bigger picture or vision and advocate and do what is best for the organization, regardless of what employees or others say. 

The key is always being ENLIGHTENED!

Decisions made in a vacuum are rarely the right ones. Remain humble and open to ideas, suggestions and strategies. Encourage discussion and ponder and assimilate the best thinking. THEN… please make the brave call. It may not be the preferred direction, but consensus really means that everyone can leave the room and live with the decision and support the direction.

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