Home Leadership Collaboration vs Consensus: You can’t always get what you want

Collaboration vs Consensus: You can’t always get what you want

by Craig Ross

By Craig W. Ross

A common misconception is that consensus is needed among team members to drive high performance. The Rolling Stones were on to something when they sang, “you can’t always get what you want.” But I’ve found that focusing on team collaboration, rather than consensus, helps companies actually get what they need.

What’s the difference between team consensus and team collaboration? When a team finds consensus, it means that a decision or plan of action is made unanimously or sometimes with majority agreement. Collaboration, on the other hand, doesn’t require that everyone agree on a decision or solution to a problem, but rather they agree to work towards the common goal of bringing a solution to life.

I’m sure many of us have had the experience of working on teams where it’s difficult to get individuals to agree on anything—even deciding on what to order for lunch can seem like an unruly task. I’ve seen teams like this transition from failing to achieve their yearly targets to being top performers in a matter of months. And it may surprise you to learn that giving up on finding team consensus is one of the things that made their transition possible. Collaboration is truly the key to enabling teams to deliver top results.

It seems counterintuitive to not want your team to find agreement before taking action. But if finding consensus is your focus and you don’t have 100% buy-in from everyone, the group will suffer, possibly causing resentment, frustration and anger.

A leader that addresses the fact that they may not be able to get everyone to agree with a decision or project, and instead stresses the importance of accountability in working toward a common goal, can prove to be much more effective.

Say, for example, that your company decides to expand into a new market and not everyone on the team is excited about a new client you’re pursuing—which has become obvious with the lack of enthusiasm from some individuals. Instead of striving to get everyone to agree with this new direction, you can highlight the opportunity that new business will bring to the company and to the team. Emphasize the critical role your team has in winning the new business, while also stressing the important role each person plays in the company’s growth and success. Collaboration encourages the sharing of knowledge and ideas, which can breed passion and excitement among team members.

What does collaboration really look like?

  • Collaboration means everyone can speak up and contribute
  • It means that a decision is made in a timely manner
  • Regardless if everyone agrees or not, the team is “all-in” in its support and execution
  • Collaboration is not always easy

I challenge you to shift the culture of your company and focus on true collaboration. I think you just might find your teams will “get what they need” to feel empowered and succeed.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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