When the Word “Yes” is a Red Flag
Organizations strive to build consensus. It means that everyone is on board. There’s a shared vision. People agree with the way forward. That’s great, right? How can that be bad?
Because, easy consensus all the time may signal issues. You may have:
- A culture ruled by fear: Are people afraid to express dissenting views?
- A non-engaged culture: Is agreement the path of least resistance? Or, are people agreeing because they don’t care what happens to the company?
- A non-diverse team: Do you surround yourself with people just like you?
- Stagnant employees: How often is your team researching, learning, reading, or networking to keep their fingers on the pulse of the industry? If they don’t keep up ever-evolving industry trends, it’s too easy to agree with the task at hand with little thought to business repercussions.
- Team members with little insight: How well does your team know their employees, customers, or clients?
Easy consensus feels good, but it’s dangerous.
When leaders have full support, they believe they are doing the right thing and that may be a misguided notion. Consensus may falsely present itself as a cohesive team – one that is congruent and not in conflict.
We’ve been geared to believe that all conflict is bad. It’s not always a bad thing if it’s healthy. The most effective teams will be conflict-prone at times. Conflict does not always equate to dysfunction. Healthy conflict means your team is talking which is what you want to spark great discussions.
You want to encourage and foster an environment where people feel free to give insights and perspectives to problems in a way that maximizes innovation, encourages candor, and doesn’t mute the truth. If what you seek is a status-quo organization that’s running behind your competitors, then consensus thinking is probably for you.
The most pioneering business practices come from diversity of thought. If you don’t have discussions or debates, ideas lie dormant. New ideas never rise to the top because without this conversation, it lessens the chance of igniting creativity.
If you feel more comfortable with surrounding yourself with “like-minded” people who always affirm your decisions and actions, you’ll inch closer to leading from your ivory tower. You’ll be isolated from reality and that’s when your view becomes distorted. With isolation comes a single view from those who continue to feed your ego. That’s not good for business. Concurring people will only stagnate your growth and intelligence as a leader.
Susan Tardanico , CEO of the Authentic Leadership Alliance, suggested that a leader should have people filling six specific roles in their inner circle. Those roles ae:
- The Contrarian: They push you to think differently by taking opposite views. They constantly ask questions, using worst-case and “what if” scenarios to challenge your thinking.
- The Everyman: They are plugged into the lower levels of the organization and can help you understand the impact of your actions from that perspective.
- The Optimist: The optimist provides best-case scenarios and positive energy during challenging times.
- The Voice of the Customer is an advocate for your clients and helps you stay aware of their needs, perspectives, expectations, and competitive choices.
- The Bleeding Heart is the empathetic member of your circle and keeps you aware of the potential impact of your decisions and actions on people.
- The Sage: The sage is hard to find. They help you stay calm in times of turbulence and they are a thoughtful strategist that plays the role of coach. They may have the most impartial point of view of all.
Make no mistake; leaders need to feel the love. They need support. They don’t need blind support. An organization must maintain a balanced perspective while staying away from an environment that stifles truth and creativity.
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