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.

The slippery slope from confidence to arrogance

There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The topic has been on my mind, and I wasn’t sure where to draw the line, so I briefly researched and asked a dozen people for their perspectives.
According to dictionaries and different people, the difference between confidence and arrogance has to do with how one views others.

Confident people believe in themselves. They know they are competent, and their belief is not dependent on others. They may enjoy feedback and recognition, but they do not require it in order to feel good about themselves.

Arrogant people’s confidence depends on others’ weaknesses. They even point out others’ errors and faults to make themselves appear better. One colleague said, “Arrogant people only feel smart if someone else feels stupid.”

The tricky part about confidence and arrogance is that the line is so thin between them, it makes for a slippery slope. Confidence often turns in to arrogance after success.

Success requires confidence. Success requires the confidence to take risks regarding investments, innovations, and interactions. However, success can cause insecurity: when will the next risk pay off? What if the next one does not turn out well? What if that was a one-time success? The insecurity wears a mask called arrogance, hence, the slippery slope from confidence to arrogance.

Each article I read about arrogance described it as a cover for insecurity. Isn’t that interesting? The very thing arrogant people despise, weakness or insecurity, is what they are covering by putting others down to prop themselves up.

One of the most highly regarded experts on arrogance is University of Akron Dean Stanley Silverman who spent four years working with a research team to quantify arrogance.

"Here's what happens," Silverman said. "I'm worried that other people are going to realize that I'm not very competent at my job, so I'm going to put other people down, criticize others and belittle my employees because somehow I think I'm going to look better that way. If I put down everybody around me, it makes my candle shine a little brighter." (SOURCE:

The following eight behaviors are how arrogant people make their candle shine brighter:

1.     Drop names. 

2.     Look for criteria other than business performance to use when measuring success. Since business performance might not be so good, arrogant people focus on their degree, school, or job title.

3.     One-up others. Arrogant people have the best of the best and worst of the worst of whatever experience is being discussed. They have the best book published, the worst cold the doctor has ever seen, the best behaved child, the worst boss. They did the biggest project with the most difficult client for the most money ever. Confident people don’t need to brag. They let their work speak for itself.

4.     Have an answer for everything. Arrogant people will rarely say, “I don’t know but will find out.”

5.     Interrupt frequently because they are not really listening.

6.     Avoid eye contact because they don’t care about others unless they need something from the person.

7.     Arrive late to meetings because their time is more valuable than everyone else’s.

8.     Blame others for errors or low performance. It’s never their fault the team is struggling.
What other behaviors do you attribute to arrogance? The more we know, the better able we will be to ensure we are not sliding down that slope. 

1.     Recognizing our own arrogant behavior can help improve our relationships with our colleagues. The following eight suggestions also can help if you have to work with arrogant people:

2.     Point at them and declare, “I know why you’re so arrogant: because you are weak!” in your best eight-year-old nah-nah-nah voice. Just kidding—don’t confront them. They will see it as a compliment and it will just waste your time.

3.     Build your own confidence so you do not have time to give attention to negative people.

4.     Spend free time with positive people who do not diminish your accomplishments or try to impress you. Minimize the time you spend with the arrogant person.

5.     Admire and recognize the accomplishments of others. When the arrogant person sees you acknowledge someone else, he might alter his behavior in his quest for approval.

6.     Keep secrets to yourself. Anything you tell an arrogant person could end up as fodder for her own esteem-boosting if she resorts to putting you down to pull herself up.

7.     Do not badmouth the arrogant colleague. Some people actually believe any press is good press. Also, gossiping can lead to wasting too much time on a topic not worth it.

8.     Include others in your conversations with the arrogant person. “Russell, we have heard your view. Now it is time to hear from Sally.”

9.     Most importantly, realize their arrogance is not about you.

What else have you done to work successfully with arrogant people?

Since this topic has been on my mind, I asked a group of business professionals recently how many of them have ever worked with an arrogant colleague. Every hand raised high. When I asked if they were the arrogant person, all hands went down.

"If you're being arrogant, you're going to derail your own career," said Stanley Silverman, an organizational and industrial psychologist. "It's just a matter of when. Nobody is irreplaceable."  Even when an arrogant person is more skilled, the confident person will win out because they can work better with others internally and externally.

When it comes down to it, performance matters. No one will work their hardest for someone who puts them down or tries to make them feel inferior. The good news is that if you’ve begun the slippery slope from confidence to arrogance, you can get back on track and salvage your reputation.


The beginning of the end of employee coddling

You’ve heard the news by now that Yahoo’s new CEO, Marissa Mayer, declared the end to working from home for Yahoo employees. They have been given three months to get their homes in order and get back to the office.  Yahoo says the return to work is to build collaboration and form a unified Yahoo. Is Mayer risking too much with this change or is the change a slick move?

Keep in mind that Mayer was hired to “right the ship”. Yahoo has been going downhill fast (one recent CEO there was fired for lying on his resume and others failed), and she’s there to turn it around. Clearly, what they are doing now is not working, so changes are necessary.
Wouldn’t it be silly to keep doing what they’ve been doing when what they’ve been doing is not working? Wouldn’t it be silly to retain the flexible work location just because Google and Facebook offer it to their people? Yahoo is not their peer and its people are not holding up their end of the bargain by actually working while at home.
I’d bet Mayer didn’t issue the change without identifying the most important contributors and how they work. Unfortunately, she found out that most of the people working from home were complacent. Complacency ruins companies. She’s not going to let Yahoo go down without a fight.

On the other hand, research shows that flexibility is important to workers today. Companies that offer flexibility enjoy lower turnover, higher employee satisfaction and engagement. Mayer might be jeopardizing the highly productive, engaged, and motivated employees in an attempt to boost collaboration or rid the company of underperformers.
Some people have noted that top talent won’t join Yahoo now because they will not have the flexibility to work from home. That’s a risk Mayer is willing to take. Frankly, I doubt top talent would be focused only on this one issue. They will come for other perks, if the company turns itself around.

Much of the world is up-in-arms about this edict, proclaiming it takes working women back fifty years, but let’s recognize the positives of the strategy too:

·         The change is not odd. It makes sense that an industry that relies on innovation, which is built on collaboration, would want people to be together.

·         It sends the positive message that people are so valuable, they need to collaborate more. If you don’t want to, feel free to exit may be the underlying message, but the outward message is positive.

·         It’s a great way to get rid of the complacent people taking advantage of the flexible option without having the cost of layoffs.

·         It shows analysts and customers that Yahoo is not afraid to make bold moves.

·         The change is temporary. They’ve said it is necessary “right now”, which leaves it open to change in the future or on an as-needed basis.

This might be the tipping point for coddling. In some places, employee engagement has run amok and people have taken advantage. Companies are waking up to the fact that they pay good money and it is reasonable to expect something in return. When people don’t hold up their end of the bargain, companies are going to coddle less and open the exit doors more.
As companies wake up to their power, complacent employees will be the most vocal protesters. Mark my words: the coddling days are coming to an end. The days of genuine caring will continue, just the coddling will stop.