Is consensus over-rated?

Consensus is great, right? Building consensus leads to better ideas, work efficiencies, and higher morale. Consensus is so important, there are courses taught on the subject and consultants earn big bucks when they facilitate consensus-building sessions for companies across the globe.

When there’s consensus, everyone is happy with the solution or action. Everyone buys in when they have contributed, which leads to higher productivity. Plus, there is a sense of camaraderie as people work together on the shared goal.
But there is a downside to consensus.

The most significant downside to consensus-building is the time it takes. It takes time in meetings, whether one-on-one or with groups, to build consensus. But, even beyond that, keeping the consensus as solutions are implemented is time-consuming. I wonder if too much time is spent here on reaching consensus.
Who says we have to be 100% happy with every solution we have to implement?
Can’t we implement solutions even when they are not our idea or preference? Is the expectation of joy for every minute of our day too high?
When too much time is spent gaining agreement for too many solutions, consensus can prevent accountability.
For example, let’s say two technical staff members explore an idea for a new product your company could offer. They do the relevant market research, calculate forecasts, and build the prototype that gains approval of their director to proceed. If the product fails or succeeds, the buck stops with the two staff members. Accountability doesn’t mean they get fired if it doesn’t work. It means they need to explain where the research and forecasts erred. They don’t get to say, “Well, it failed but Bob approved it!” On the other hand, if the product is a wild success, accountability means they get rewarded for success.
Consensus is not needed for everything it is used for all the time. Don’t use it to get out of making decisions that are your responsibility. Instead, get ideas and input from others, then make the decision. Also, resist the temptation to insist on consensus when you are invited to give input and ideas. Feel free to share then let our colleague decide.
When consensus leads to lack of accountability and to procrastination, the good part of it is lost.

Are you the Red Flag teammate?

In the video linked below, Peter Bregman (CEO of a global management consulting firm which advises CEOs and their leadership teams) shares a story about consulting with a company whose staff put a red flag outside the CEO’s office to warn people against going in to his office. He says everyone knew the CEO was difficult, but the CEO didn’t know his reputation was so damaged until Bregman explained the red flag hanging outside his office.

(Click the picture or use the link to watch the six-minute video

Why is it bad to be the red flag person?
  1. You might not get to use the full power of your brain or experience if people don’t want you on their teams.
  2. Red flag people cause others to waste time and energy trying to accommodate them or fix their issues.
  3. It can be lonely when no one wants to be around you.
  4. Being a downer might go against your personal mission or goals.
  5. You might get stuck in a spot along your career journey where you don’t want to stay.
  6. It is exhausting to be so negative.
As Bregman says, “When we are not aware of the feelings, they take us with them.”
We have feelings all day long without thinking about them, and when we don’t pay attention to them, the feelings can cause us to become a negative force in the office. They can cause us to become the Red Flag people.
    While I do not want anyone reading this to be a Red Flag person, I also do not want you to repress your feelings. Some “gurus” tell us not to take things personally or to leave our feelings at the door as we arrive at work. But, I don’t think that helps either.
I’ve written and spoken extensively outside the Institute about being all in. Living and leading all in means you bring your brain, heart, hands, eyes, and everything about yourself to your life. That includes work. So, contrary to some popular “gurus,” I do think we should take things personally. Our work is personal, and our company does better when people have strong feelings about it. However, we can control how we behave in response to our feelings so we don’t become the Red Flag people.

The following tips can help you avoid becoming the Red Flag person on your team:
  1. Slow down, breath, pause and get used to your feelings. Understanding your feelings can help you deliberately adapt your behavior. Don’t repress your feelings; identify them.
  2. Decide how you need to act to maintain your professional relationships and reputation. You don’t have to address the feelings right away, but you do have to choose your behavior. Unlike a three-year old whose tantrums are cute to onlookers, we can control our behavior.
  3. Refrain from over-sharing feelings, especially regarding personal matters that will be highly scrutinized.
  4. Use support resources like your workplace friends, manager, coach, or EAP.
  5. Honor personal boundaries—your own and others’. Certain topics are not ideal for the workplace and could make colleagues uncomfortable, so be aware of others’ personal boundaries.
  6. If you can’t focus, take time off. The best professionals know when they need to take themselves out of the game to recuperate.
  7. Respect your colleagues’ time. Your best friends at work have their own work to complete each day, and they have their own personal issues to manage.
  8. Respect your job, team, and the Institute by doing great work. If you’ve decided you can show up for work, then be a stellar teammate while you are here.
  9. Once the situation improves, thank the people who supported you through it.
These nine tips can help you understand and respond to your feelings without repressing them or letting them steer you toward becoming the Red Flag teammate.

Do you have a perception problem?

Yesterday afternoon I met a friend for coffee. We had not seen each other since May, so we enjoyed catching up for a while. At one point, I was telling her about an upcoming activity with some high school students, and she encouraged me to show a lot of confidence when interacting with kids that age. Another time in the conversation, I mentioned the first year with MRIGlobal flew by yet I feel so new, and she again urged me about confidence. After her second mention of it, I began to wonder if I come across to her, or in general, as if I don’t have confidence.

So, now I’m paranoid and lacking confidence!

The conversation prompted me to dig a little about perceptions. How do our impressions of others impact our behaviors? How do our perceptions of ourselves impact our performance? If anyone reading this has a perception problem, what I learned and pondered might help you too.

The psychology gurus are pretty set on the definition of perception: it is the process by which we translate our environment into our view of the world. Of course, our view affects our behaviors and behaviors lead to success or failure with work and people.

Take a look at the photo to the left. How old is the woman you see? The way you see the woman will impact how you treat her, if she were a real person in front of you. Or, perhaps you see something else entirely?

A colleague told me a story recently. The story was about selling shoes in India. As the story goes, an Indian leader wanted to set up a shoe business in a specific region, so he sent an ambassador there to do some recon work. The elder ambassador spent little time in the region and told the leader that selling shoes in that region would be a waste of time because the people don’t even wear shoes.

In the meantime, an enterprising young man met the leader. The young man was eager to prove himself worthy of a position with the leader, so he offered to go to the same region to assess the shoe business potential. He spent time in the region, interacted with the people, noted their interests and needs. When he returned to the leader, he was excited about the potential shoe business. There was great potential because the people don’t wear shoes! Turns out, the young man was right and the shoe business prospered.

Perception affects behavior, and behavior affects success with work and people. Watch out for three common perception problems to make sure you see things as they are and act accordingly.

Self-fulfilling prophecy: Believing something is true causes it to come true. The best example I can think of for this is “parking karma.” I believe in such karma and it almost always works for me. When people in the car doubt or make fun of it, it always works. Right when a passenger laughs off my parking prayer (“Hail Mary full of grace, help me find a parking space”), someone pulls out of the front spot. Another common example is when searching for a lost item. It is better to say, “I will remember to print the report” instead of “I hope I don’t forget to print the report.”

I read a statistic a long time ago that said 70%-90% of what we say to ourselves is negative. Pay attention to how you talk to, and about, yourself to see if that number could be taken down a notch or two.

 

Self-sabotage: Self-sabotage goes deeper than self-talk. Sometimes people procrastinate or do mediocre work as a way to sabotage themselves. A technique that helps self-sabotagers is Stop-Challenge-Focus. (SOURCE: Turn Self-Sabotage Into Success By Geoffrey James on www.inc.com)
When you avoid taking an action that would help you reach your goals, use the three steps:
1.       STOP. Identify the belief that's causing you to feel emotions that aren't helping you succeed.

2.       CHALLENGE. Question the validity of that belief and find reasons why it's not really true or not true in this case.

3.       FOCUS. Create a specific inner dialog that supports your goals and then take action immediately.

Fundamental attribution error: This is when we give positive explanations for our results and negative ones for others. For example, I got the “A” on the exam because I studied hard, while Joey got the “A” because he was lucky. At work, this might relate to positions, promotions, evaluations, or project assignments. A flawed sense of oneself leads to career stagnation or failure. It is difficult for others to give feedback when our vision of ourselves differs from how others view us, so watch for it yourself.

One of the great philosophers of our day, Stephen Colbert summed this issue up nicely, “It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything.”

Whether we are with friends, colleagues, or customers, perception is everything. Remember, that includes your perception of others and of yourself, not just their perception of you.