The need for everyone to agree on a common vision at work is not something new. Projects that proceed without everyone being truly on board with the vision for the project, and the steps to attain that vision, end up taking much more time and money to bring to fruition, and can lead to a lot of team frustration along the way. A lack of support for the vision being worked on can lead to tense conversations, as everyone attempts to push their own vision forward, or even to employee disengagement, for those who are not feeling heard.
At each step of a project moving forward, it is important to ensure that everyone is truly on board with the decisions made, so as to maximize productivity, as well as staff engagement and job satisfaction. Here are a few tips to help your team reach consensus during team meetings.
1. Use active listening to try to better understand everyone’s point of view, even if you vehemently disagree with one another.
You can ask others to further explain their point of view by using statements such as “can you tell me more” or “can you explain why you think that is the way to go?”. Fully understanding everyone’s perspective will allow you to better understand each other’s point of view and to come to a fully informed decision.
2. Ensure that the climate of discussions always remains respectful, where everyone is seen as having something worthwhile to contribute.
In a climate where judgments are placed when another person’s perspective does not coincide with your own, where contributions are judged as being good or bad without exploring them first, or where there is emphasis placed on the contributions of some people as being more valuable that those of others (e.g., senior to more junior staff), individuals will inevitably become more reluctant to share their ideas. This may be for fear of being judged, or for fear of not looking smart or good enough. Maintaining an open, accepting work culture will encourage everyone to speak their mind, such that you will be aware of everyone’s concerns and views on a project. It is primordial that there is separation between the idea itself as being good or bad, and that this is not extended to judgment regarding the person who has had the idea.
3. Monitor how much everyone in the room is contributing.
Be aware of whether you tend to be someone who contributes a lot during group discussions, or if you have a tendency to remain more silent. If you tend to contribute a lot, attempt to balance this with giving others space to express their opinions. If you tend to remain silent, attempt to share your perspective with others.
For those who facilitate these types of meetings, be sure to encourage everyone to contribute. Meetings where some individuals leave without having shared their viewpoint may mean that you are leaving the meeting without a common vision, even if you think you have attained one. Open the door to more silent parties to share their views, by specifically asking their opinion (e.g. “George, what do you think about this?” or “George, you looked like you were about to say something right before Sharon spoke”).
4. Monitor your own emotional reactions.
Losing touch with our emotional reactions to what others are saying can lead a meeting in a destructive direction, especially when this happens to multiple people in the meeting. Is the way someone is speaking to you that is triggering you to feel shame? Or to feel rejected? Or to feel like they are not doing a good enough job? Or that you are not important? Just being aware that you are feeling these things will help you to remind yourself that you are enough, and will help you stay in more of a responsive, rather than a reactive state.
5. If you ultimately need to make a decision that others do not agree with, use empathy to show others that you understand their perspective.
Be sure to tell others that you appreciate their feedback, so they will continue to share concerns in the future. Also be clear in explaining why you have made the decision you have made, so that others can understand and empathize with your position also. For instance, you could say “I truly understand why you want to do the project this way, and I really appreciate you sharing your perspective with me. Unfortunately for X reason, we won’t be able to do it that way this time”.
Communication, listening and collaboration are amongst some of the most key elements to team success. Working to develop an open, respectful, authentic corporate culture will be the beginning of beautiful things for your business.
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