How to Build Consensus in Meetings

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Gaining consensus helps a team become more productive.
Gaining consensus helps a team become more productive. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Consensus is reached when all members of a team are willing to support a decision, even though a particular decision may not reflect an individual’s choice of action. The goal in the meeting is to seek agreement, and not allow team members to compete for their own ideas. The spirit of the discussion should be friendly. Do not allow participants to treat ideas as if they owned them. Encourage the willingness to compromise and respect other points of view.

Ask the team members who are blocking group consensus to explain the criteria they are using and why they hold the opinions they do. Encourage team members to give an example or tell a story that would help the team understand the reason for their opinions.

Wait in silence when the meeting becomes tense or deadlocked. Give people time to think. If the deadlock continues, suspend the team’s judgment.

Gather new information. Sometimes a consensus is not reached because team members are operating on false assumptions. More information can shed light on the issue.

Take no further action on the issue until the team has a chance to consider the new information individually. Show respect to individual team members to make it easier for them to compromise without losing face.

Discuss and modify the proposal at the next team meeting. Ask “Can everyone accept this decision?” to determine whether all team members have finally reached the mutual acceptance of a decision. A “yes” indicates the team has probably reached consensus. “Is there any opposition to this decision?” A “no” answer indicates the team should move forward. “Will everyone work to support this decision?” A “yes” indicates more than mere passive acceptance.

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