My daughter came home from school this week having chosen two leaders of their class. They didn’t vote. They used the Quaker method—consensus. Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about how consensus works.

While I am not an advocate for consensus in the workplace, necessarily, there are portions of the process my daughter went through that make sense. Some of these align pretty closely to those in The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. If you haven’t yet read this, you might want to consider it—it’s one of the best out there.


  1. They were clear about the goal of the discussion, and how the decision would be made. How many times have you gotten into a group discussion and thought, “wait, what are we solving for again?” Spending a few minutes up front to define the specific goal saves both time and energy later in the process. For my daughter, the goal was to choose 2 out of the 5 people running for a position, by consensus. 

    How will the decision be made in your scenario? Defining who makes the decision and how it will be made up front, and out loud is imperative to the success of your discussion. Ex: “Joe is the ultimate decision maker here.” Otherwise, assumptions get made, egos get hurt, and frustrations runs high.
  1. They listened respectfully and spoke without interrupting each other. In her case, there were defined expectations that everyone would speak until they were done with their thoughts. Others could respond by sharing their own thoughts and perspectives on the matter, but only when the other person was done speaking. 

    Is this how things work in your world? When is the last time you inadvertently cut someone off? Or witnessed someone getting cut off? We often listen to respond, rather than listen to absorb. 
  1. They saw the need of the overall class as bigger than their own need. This is the biggest challenge I see with those I coach. There is often a lack of recognition that the team you’re ON is more important than the team you LEAD. Your job is to make sure your overall organization (the one who pays you) is successful. That means there are times that you will have to sacrifice your own resources to support the bigger goal. 

    In my daughter’s case, her comment to me was, “I mean, I liked her, but I get how others didn’t think she could really represent them, so it made sense to remove her from the list.” Bigger than her and for the good of the group.
  1. They spoke their piece and moved on. Lencioni speaks about this very clearly – the need to move on once a decision has been made. The best way to do this is to openly share your thoughts during the meeting. Say your piece. It’s okay to have a differing opinion during the process. Be the person who discusses your opinion with the group during the meeting, and not the person who shares it in the hallway after the meeting is over. Constructive conflict makes for better decisions. The thing is, once the decision is made, it’s time to get on board. You’ve said your piece. Move on.

    Do you need help making better decisions? Schedule an introductory call and discover who we can help you develop a strategy to become a more effective decision-maker in your organization.