Consensus has its place

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

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“A consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually.”

Abba Eban (1915 – 2002), former Israeli Foreign Minister

Every now and then, I am tempted to just leave the quote and drop the mic. This is one of those times. But, here I go, anyway!

Consensus has its place — and we should seek it where it can be attained without impeding progress.

When there is risk or fear surrounding a decision, the tendency is for people and teams to lose their courage, and that often means that we dishonor our wisdom and experience and, instead, take the safe route by opting in to the consensus.

Consider an illustrative example from the movie “A Few Good Men.” Danny Kaffe (the character played by Tom Cruise) quotes his legendary trial-lawyer father, Lionel Kaffe, “My father always said that trial by jury is not about assigning guilt or innocence, it’s about assigning blame.” Similarly, decision by committee is rarely about making a great choice, it’s often about avoiding blame, should the deal go squirrelly.

Consensus has its place. It’s up to us as leaders to determine whether that is before or after our decision is made.

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