Building consensus is one of the most important skills a leader can have in their leadership toolbox. Leaders frequently need to advocate for their ideas and persuade others that their approach is the best solution for everyone involved. Building consensus provides a way to get others to buy-in to our ideas and to participate in the process of turning them into fully developed solutions that address the problem or situation. One of the most important ideas to understand about consensus is that it is more than just bringing about the majority of the group to our side. In a true consensus, all members of the group agree with and accept the idea or concept, not just most of the group. While it can be difficult to bring a whole group of people around to our way of thinking, there are some tools that we can use to help in building consensus among that group to gain support for our ideas.
Tools for Building Consensus
- Find areas of agreement early
- Separate interests from positions
- Engage in Active Listening
- Ask thorough, thoughtful, open-ended questions
- Give others the opportunity to speak about impacts
Building consensus is definitely challenging, especially when multiple parties interests and positions come into play, but there are some advantages that come along with putting this effort in up front. Primarily, once consensus has been achieved among the group, it is likely that the members of the group will be invested in the solution arrived at and will advocate for it to others and strive to implement it fully. This can help in educating the rest of the work force or other organizations as to why any changes are important as well as gain their support because their interests were represented in the decision-making process. Building a consensus is almost always difficult, and not always possible, but definitely worth the effort when it can be achieved.
Photo Credit: By John Trumbull [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons