What a Little League Coach Can Teach You About Building Consensus
Updated: Sep 6
"A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus."
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Molding versus searching. What a great visual.
When someone is searching there can be an anxious energy. Trying to find something that may not be there. Putting pressure on the process.
Molding brings to mind a gentler, more creative and gradual process.
So, how do we mold consensus?
First, let’s differentiate consensus from majority rule. In majority rule, people present their case, there is a vote and whatever solution has the most votes prevails. While this is a fair process, it does not mean that people leave invested in the outcome.
Consensus works to get everyone on the same page, encourages more discussion, gets more buy in from the participants, and reduces conflict.
The best example to delineate this difference that we can think of is…
A coach trying to get 7 year olds to decide on a sports team name.
If you have ever been involved in this process you know that creativity abounds and kids are very invested in the outcome.
We once watched as a coach took a team of aspiring major leaguers through a very fair majority rule process. At the end of the vote, while there were cheers, there were also tears as the different factions came to terms with the outcome.
We also watched as a Little League coach artfully navigated toward consensus. First the coach asked what words the kids would use to describe their team: Exciting, Fun, Athletic. The kids wanted an animal name, so as names were suggested, the coach asked if that animal met their criterion. The kids discussed it with the fervor of a UN peace treaty negotiation. When the name Awesome Otters was thrown out, the kids realized this was the perfect team name!
Through the process, the team built a unified view so that when this name was suggested the group agreed. No tears - just cheers.
The process this coach used had the key elements that are necessary to build consensus for any team:
Gain buy-in from all members about the purpose
Identify all issues and ensure every idea is acknowledged
Clarify questions and address concerns
Create areas of shared understanding
Establish a decision making criteria
Guide the team to a final decision
Consensus building can take more time than a majority rule process, but it reaps a lot of benefits:
It engages and empowers the group
It increases cooperation and commitment
It creates shared understanding and resolves differences
It equalizes the distribution of power in a group
It creates decisions that are more representative of the larger community
When the decision is implemented, it is often more effective because the entire group has become invested in the endeavor.
G2 Solutions can help you implement a consensus process. Contact us for a free consultation.