Many times when people walk out of a meeting and look happy it is because they have achieved consensus and can now move forward. I always question if this is a sign of a good outcome or not. While having everyone on the same page and sharing the same vision is without question a good thing, arriving on a strategic decision based on consensus may not.
So, they say a good team worker knows how to get consensus. It is an overly simplistic way of management decision making. The best teamwork and team leadership is not about getting quick consensus. 99% of the time consensus making is a time wasting exercise (much like those UN meetings) and is a false ideal that many young managers are trying to follow.
Consensus means using the lowest common denominator and is a sure way to achieve under-performance and mediocrity. More, it means poor leadership – you just reduced your leadership capacity to a facilitator and avoided doing the job that you’re supposed to do – make decisions that you are capable of and justifiable.
The goal for a CEO is never to seek an OK or acceptable solution for the organization. His/her job is not to please everyone. The job is to make the right decision considering all risks factors and possibilities. Consensus involves debate. It is fine to debate; it is fine to allow people to have a voice; it is also fine to ignore many of these requests; and it is fine to ignore them when there is no logic to support it. Today, if you wait for every last person to agree and add in their feedback, you competition will eat you. Or your great idea will be diluted into some incremental thing that takes 3 years to fully implement.
Consensus often means the status quo. It means not taking the threat lightly and deciding to stay the course, which is human nature. So, when people get together to discuss the possibility of doing something radically innovative, expect 80% of people will vote for avoiding making such changes. Those who push for the status quo will always gain better support because it is easily to show data to support it. Consensus brings people back to the middle where the majority approves but mediocrity reigns.
Consensus often means leaving unresolved conflict or issues and pretending it would go away. Consensus prevents tough conversations from happening and so one will upset anyone so the meeting can end quickly. It helps avoid facing the reality. Then they will talk after meeting. Consensus means forget the idea go big or go home. No one will bet their career on any crazy idea even though deep down in their hearts they like the idea. They are just managerially uncomfortable or incapable of making those bold decisions. They are trained for the opposite.
Good leadership is to make tough decisions and trade-offs. Leadership is to know where a company is heading and make decisions that lead to the best results. Good leadership is not wasting too much time to get consensus. Good leadership is making a strategic decision and committing to it.