A united team is often heralded as “the goal,” but swift agreement can also be a symptom of a bigger problem.
Picture a marketing team tasked with putting together a new campaign. Within the first ten minutes of the meeting, someone senior pitches an idea for a video campaign, and the whole team immediately and unanimously jumps on board. The idea is half-baked at best, but instead of pushing back on the idea or taking a critical eye to it, they’re excited by the new concept and they say “yes.” Unfortunately, built on a flimsy premise, their months-long project is rife with avoidable problems, each casting a ripple of work that slows everything down.
If this sounds at all familiar, that’s because teams make this mistake all the time. When working on teams, we often gravitate toward consensus because it’s easy and feels good—at least initially. We all like to be on teams that act cohesively and enthusiastically. But, a team that jumps to agreement quickly and decisively can easily overlook important perspectives, problems, and details. Worse yet, they create an environment where people are scared or hesitant to speak up. They don’t want to ruin the nice atmosphere and rhythm within the team.
Here’s what to do as a team to break this cycle:
- Learn to recognize the problem early. Instead of seeing hasty agreement as an indication of a perfect idea, treat it as a sign that perspectives, opinions, and feelings aren’t finding their way to the surface. When decisions are made, ask yourselves “How many perspectives have we actually heard?”
- Buy yourselves some time. One big reason we get swept up in consensus is that the positive emotions of agreeing on something new take over our ability to be thoughtful in the moment. Slowing things down, even just a bit, can help people move past their emotions and think more logically about a group decision. Next time your group is hasty to make a decision, ask team members to continue thinking on this, try to schedule a follow-up meeting to finalize, or even just circle back to the decision at the end of a meeting to check for alternate perspectives and questions.
- Collect perspectives deliberately. Being deliberate about gathering perspective can be as simple as going around the room and having each person share, or it can be as complex as assigning each person a role, perspective, or sub-topic, and having them come into a meeting ready to present and defend it. Assigning roles can be especially effective because it shows the whole group that perspective-sharing is not only encouraged, but also a team value.
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