In principle, consensus among the whole group is worth the effort when decisions are intended to transcend generations. Consensus is achieved when every member of the group understands and consents to the same thing. It is much more arduous to make consensus decisions than it is to make majority-rule decisions or executive decisions. However, because they achieve full understanding and consent among all members, consensus decisions are much more likely to last. When there is real consensus about a decision there is no disgruntled minority working to change it later.
For a board of directors deciding its mission, values, or high-level policies — things intended to endure for future generations of board members — taking the time to develop consensus among all members is worth the effort. For deciding what the board will have for lunch — a decision that lasts only through dessert — consensus is not worth the effort.
Practical Tip: For every decision, consider how long it’s expected to last and choose an appropriate decision-making method. Be deliberate about using consensus for some things, majority vote for other things, and delegate the short-order things to individuals. We let individuals make short-term decisions on behalf of the members because we trust they will be in keeping with long-term decisions decided by consensus of all the members.
In principle, we know we’re prone to make mistakes; it’s part of being human. And, we know that mistakes are our best teachers. Learning from small mistakes prevents big mistakes. Yet we’re prone to cover up our mistakes, especially in our groups, and this can make a mess of things.
Collaborative decisions require humility among group members. I serve my group when I say, “I don’t have all the answers, I don’t do everything right, and it is okay for others to not be perfect.”
Accepting that we are not perfect frees us to move on from mistakes without burden. Admitting mistakes helps us learn from them and let go of them.
Practical Tip: Be on honest watch for mistakes, perhaps by taking a regular evening recount of the day’s successes and mistakes. I try to isolate my mistakes from mistakes or behaviors of others—what was my part? In the case of a mistake made, admit your mistake to yourself and at least one other person. If an apology or amend is in order, do it.
In principle, big ideas are always the result of putting our heads together. Really big ideas are already out there in the heads of many people just waiting to be put together. Without sharing my ideas with fellows and without openness to new ideas I am a prisoner of my own limitations, incapable of more than I can imagine.
Practical Tip: I serve the group best when I am humble. I accept that I probably don’t have all the best answers and if I do, the question is surely small. I talk with others about my ideas and their ideas. I release my ideas, let them be criticized, and let others build on them. I trust the wisdom of the group.
It’s okay that I don’t understand everything; that it doesn’t all fit in my head. I am open to ideas and achievements beyond my imagination.