“Nothing is what happens when everyone has to agree”

Silicon Valley Product Group recently published a fabulous article on consensus versus collaboration.  You can read the article here.

The article quotes a great line from Seth Godin: “Nothing is what happens when everyone has to agree”.  I often see an excessive need for everyone to agree in companies big and small.  Some leaders confuse consensus with collaboration. They feel that unless there is consensus, they cannot move on.

This is a problem because people on a team can have strong convictions and opinions.  In situations where there is no obvious right or wrong answer, an otherwise good team could get stuck.  People with fundamentally incompatible points of views get trapped in their own positions, which they continue to expound without stopping to listen to each other.   It is up to the team leader to facilitate dialog and guide the team to consensus, and if that doesn’t work within a reasonable timeframe, to put a stop to this and make a call.  Otherwise the team will stay stuck and get nothing done.

Team members in a well constructed, reasonably diverse cross-functional team will bring different perspectives to the table.  That’s good. We want and welcome a healthy debate because it helps us consider the facts from multiple angles.  However, the final decision rests with the person in charge of that decision, even if it will make part of the team unhappy.

In the words of my friend Agnes, who once served as the CEO of a small investment bank: “I’m not here to win the popularity contest.”  To lead is to have the courage to make unpopular decisions from time to time.  Good leaders make sure everybody’s voice is heard, make the decision, agree to disagree, and move on.

If you are part of a group where someone else made a decision that you disagree with, you should by all means share your concerns in a professional and constructive manner.  Make sure your facts and rationale are presented and understood.  If it is important enough to you, state your dissent opinion on the record.  Agree to disagree, then get behind the decision and pull your weight in implementing the plan of record.  You shouldn’t expect any less from yourself or anyone else in your team.

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