Eating ice cream

Consensus for ice cream!

Consensus decisions are the output of a process in which a team or group finds a solution that everyone can either actively support or live with. Getting from the need to create a decision to the decision is where the magic (or at least the hard work) happens. The steps a facilitator takes in generating a consensus decision include:

  1. Identifying what the team will decide. Develop a clear outline to help a team or group to frame the scope of the decision. State the need for everyone to understand by pinpointing the priorities.
  2. Visualize what a positive outcome looks like. Visualization provides a mental model of what a successful consensus looks like and how it impacts the team. Use the process of visualization to mentally role-play getting to a consensus in your mind. This is a critical step not only for the facilitator but the whole team. Facilitators use mental models to guide, and team members use mental models to create a goal. Questions are a tool to generate a mental model. Two questions I have found useful are:
    1. What is the ideal or best outcome possible?
    2. What does the path to attaining that outcome look like?

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Standard poodle on yoga mat

Jax voted to take over my yoga mat!

One of the primary decision-making techniques used in teams is consensus decision making. The power of consensus decision making is that it yields decisions that are the output of a process in which a team or group finds a solution that everyone can either actively support or live with.  The process of getting to a decision or solution that the whole team can at least live will make sure that every that everyone on the team has a seat at the table and that team builds both majority and minority views into the deliberation process. Generating a consensus requires a number of skills that teams and team members need to learn.  These skills include the ability to:

  •       Communicate options and ideas
  •       Synthesize options and ideas
  •       Listen to team members effectively
  •       Discuss and identify similarities and differences
  •       Compromise
  •       Recognize the needs of others.

Diverse teams rarely have a single monolithic thought process. That means that consensus decisions are a synthesis of ideas in which no one got exactly what they wanted but the result is that the team broadly agrees on the specific issues and the overall direction.  When a team has generated a consensus everyone accepts the decision, will support the decision and understands the reason for making it. A consensus decision represents a team’s collective acceptance of the responsibility for enacting the decision and following through.

Despite the crisp definition of consensus, every team operationalizes the concept of consensus decision making differently.  Some bad consensus decision making processes include:

  • Voting –Teams often feel that they have achieved consensus when they have achieved a unanimous vote.  Voting per se is not bad in certain circumstances. Voting can be a way to test the broad position of a team and identify groups that hold different positions but rarely is it a tool to generate a synthesis or to expose nuances in position.  Voting is most often used to force a majority decision.
  • Majority or minority rule – By definition, consensus decisions represent a synthesis of ideas and concepts to generate support from the whole team.  Majority or minority rule scenarios by definition do not reflect a synthesis.
  • One-person rule – Decisions generated and enforced by a single leader do not represent a consensus decision – duh.
  • Bargaining – Bargaining shifts consensus decision making into a process where the participants agree on what each side gives or receives as payment to support the ideas or concepts of others.  Reducing decision making to a legalistic transaction reduces the need to create a synthesis of ideas.

None of the activities that aren’t good for consensus decision making are bad when used in different situations.  I have bargained with my family when deciding on a restaurant. Many a time have I negotiated visiting a place with good chicken wings one night and the vegan salad place the next (we are complicated).  One-person rule decision making can be very effective in an emergency. Captain Sully Sullenberger, who landed a crippled airliner in the Hudson River, did not use consensus decision making. Combining bad practices with consensus decision making is a problem.

Next:

Techniques for Consensus Decision Making

Techniques for Testing Consensus Decisions

 

Worn running shoes

Time to Intervene?

Coaches are more than someone lurking over your shoulder watching your every move.  The goal of coaching is to MAKE A DIFFERENCE in someone’s or some group’s life. To make a difference, coaches need to intervene.  The goal of any intervention is to change behavior to fulfill the coachee’s development plan (this is why agreeing up front to what you want to accomplish is a big deal). Changing behavior requires some combination of:

  1. Trying new behaviors and getting feedback,
  2. Building and trying new skills,
  3. Participating in training,
  4. Enhancing relationships with the right people
  5. Seeking out mentors to grow the whole person, and
  6. Accepting input from stakeholders on goals and behaviors.

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Barb eating Korean appitizers

Sometimes Trying Something New Is A Learning Experience!

Coaching is a core role for facilitating getting work done that requires a coach to intervene. Intervention requires the permission of the person or team on the receiving end of the intervention. Without permission, as Eli Goldratt stated, “ people will do almost anything before they shift their paradigm.” Agreement on positioning sets coaches on the lookout for learning opportunities. Learning opportunities come in two basic flavors, discovered/harvested or manufactured.

  • Manufactured learning opportunities are scenarios in which the coach controls the situation so that that the coachee can learn a specific point. Generally, these types of situations are safe (little chance for physical or career harm) so the coach can allow mistakes, debrief, and then run the scenario again until the coachee begins to build up muscle memory to help guide them in the real world. In a controlled scenario, it is far easier to dispassionately assess performance and outcome so that the feedback can be precise. Manufacturing a learning opportunity requires not only skill but the coach needs to keep several concepts in mind.  They are:

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Picture of a dangerous transport

Sometimes You Have To Step In

 

Coaching is a core role for facilitating getting work done — all kinds of work.   On the surface, coaching is a fairly simple role. A coach has six basic modes of operation.  But…if you peel back the layers just a little bit you will find that coaching is part art and part science. That’s code for “coaching is complicated”, making those six modes different from easy.  The six modes of operation every coach need to become fluent in are:

  1. Positioning
  2. Observing
  3. Nudging
  4. Pushing
  5. Shoving
  6. Ignoring

Positioning lays the groundwork for every other mode of operation.  Positioning creates an agreement that grants the coach permission to interact with the coachee.  Positioning is a form of contract between the coach and a coachee in which the coach establishes credibility, intention, operating norms and an agreement on the purpose and duration of coaching (coaching transactional). Coaches will shift into and out of positioning mode when the people they are coaching change and when the basic context of the relationship changes. For example, I have had several coaches during my career. As my roles and skills have changed, I have changed coaches. (more…)

Not a bed of roses but rather a . . .

Trust is an important factor in decision making. The higher the level of trust in the in the information you are receiving or people involved in a decision, the easier it will be to make a decision. Easier, in this scenario, equates to using trust as a filter or qualifier of information. Filtering information does not always generate the best decision. When trust is a filter, trust intensifies many cognitive biases. There are more than a few cognitive biases that reduce the amount of perceived uncertainty and risk attributed to a decision. For example, I trust my wife’s ability to see color (she is an award-winning graphic designer and I am color blind).  When picking out clothes for work or an evening on the town I am disadvantaged and I am at risk of creating a bad impression. My trust in her ability to match colors reduces the uncertainty and risk that I will have glaring color mismatches (unless I have irritated her before asking for help). Examples of cognitive biases impacted by trust include the following: (more…)

Coaching is a tool to help individuals or teams improve performance. Effective coaching requires trust but – not all trust is the same. Christophe Hubert (@christopheXpert) responded to our essay, Trust, the Backbone of Coaching by tweeting:

“Could we define a trust level on a scale?”

The answer is obvious, we do not trust everyone to the same level. I trust the person that delivers mail to my house differently than my wife or family. The knowledge that trust is variable is important to help coaches tailor their approach. (more…)