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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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The Proper Use of Feedback Builds Consensus

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Productivity is enhanced and empowerment achieved when leaders solicit, then act upon employee feedback, ideas and concepts. Soliciting and acting upon feedback is the essence of leadership. The proper use of feedback allows leaders to build consensus among their employees and give them ownership of the ideas and concepts to be implemented within the organization.

There are critical differences between managers and leaders. Managers tend to direct and control without soliciting feedback and building employee consensus.

Leaders, on the other hand, build their strength from group consensus, acting as facilitator rather than controller. They understand the power and synergy of combining ideas and working together to achieve mutual goals.

The more involvement leaders seek from their employees, the easier it will be to implement new ideas, resolve nagging problems, minimize conflict and move the organization forward.

Leaders will find the more proficient they are in working with their employees and soliciting their input, the smoother things will run as many problems and headaches experienced in the past are eliminated.

The ideas and concepts created by employees during the feedback process can be easily implemented using the following techniques either in a group setting or individually.

Initiate Dialogue

The feedback process begins with the initiation of a dialogue between the leader and employee(s). This should include a clear and concise presentation of the problem or circumstance being addressed.

Whenever possible, a presentation of background material, including any and all supporting facts, should be included in order to afford employees a complete overview of the situation.

Research has shown that by providing employees with the complete information concerning a specific problem, they are more responsive, feel more involved and in the decision making process, and are more productive when the ideas are implemented.

Solicit Feedback

Once the dialogue has been initiated and the facts presented to the employees, the leader should solicit feedback from them and open the floor to discussion.

Respectfully Accept All Feedback

All ideas and feedback should be respectfully accepted and considered. One individual should be assigned to write the ideas down on a whiteboard or large sheet of paper for the group to see.

The leader should make sure no derogatory remarks are made as an individual presents an idea or gives their feedback. A failure to do so will further limit contributions from more reluctant members of the group. Leaders should solicit feedback from each individual in their group, even if they have to ask for it.

Group Similar Ideas & Concepts

Together with the members of the group, the leader should brainstorm to combine ideas and concepts. Often individuals communicate the same idea or concept, but in different ways.

The leader should facilitate the discussion and direct the grouping and combination of related ideas and concepts. They should make sure that the entire group agrees and is in consensus when performing these tasks.

Build on Ideas and Concepts

Once ideas and concepts have been combined, the leader should facilitate additional feedback and brainstorm ways to build and expand upon them. Leaders should make sure that all members of the group are involved and that their additional feedback is solicited. As new points are added and expanded upon, the group should always reach consensus before moving forward.


After adequate discussion has been concluded and the group has run out of new ideas, a consensus should be reached regarding prioritization of the refined ideas/concepts.

The basis for prioritizing each of the ideas should be that which best meets the criteria for resolving the problem or situation presented at the beginning of the discussion.

Assess Feasibility

Every organization has a limited amount of human, financial and physical resources. Leaders will find that the group will typically develop a number of ideas; however, available resources make it impossible to implement each of them. Therefore the group must determine which ideas are feasible under current organizational constraints. Remaining ideas can be tabled for further discussion when additional resources become available or after the initial ideas have been implemented.

Formulate a Plan

Once the final ideas have been selected, then under the leader’s direction the group should formulate a plan to implement them. A specific goal, timeline as well as individual responsibilities are assigned for every aspect of the plan. Additionally, a reporting and measurement mechanism should be included for overall accountability for the plan’s implementation.


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Excerpt: Improving Communication in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

January 29, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Overcoming and Preventing Groupthink

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Overcoming and preventing groupthink tendencies requires leaders’ constant diligence and continual attention. For constructive thinking to occur within team environments, individuals must possess high degrees of like-mindedness regarding the basic values and mutual respect needed for their teams to succeed. This requires a level of cohesiveness, where personalities become blended and balanced through common missions and purposes.

As leaders attempt to tackle the complicated issues surrounding groupthink, they should be cognizant of the critical evaluator roles all team members assume. They need to understand the constant hazards associated with issues that require rapid action, such as prolonged debates, or with open criticism that potentially leads to damaged feelings, especially when team members resolutely live up to their roles as critical evaluators. Feelings of rejection, depression and anger might be evoked when challenging particular team decisions. This can have a corrosive effect on team morale and working relationships.

It is important for leaders to understand both the negative and positive consequences associated with individual personalities when it comes to dealing with complex groupthink issues. The personality mix of individual team members determines and impacts subsequent team environments and group dynamics. The addition or removal of individual team members tends to greatly impact team environments and their interrelated dynamics.

There are specific strategies to prevent and overcome groupthink tendencies. These can also be implemented when particular individuals are actively decreasing overall team effectiveness.

Create Subgroups

Leaders may need to periodically create subgroups that meet separately under different group leaders to work on the same general team problems. This method creates contrastive team environments with varied personality mixes for arriving at separate conclusions. Once these subgroups have each arrived at a separate consensus, they should all be brought together as a unified team to present their findings and negotiate specific differences.

Consult with Other Associates

Leaders should discuss their teams’ deliberations with trusted associates in their organization. These individuals should possess different expertise, outlooks and values. Once identified, they are expected to make independent evaluations and critiques of team progress. They should be able to offer fresh perspectives and possible solutions that may have been overlooked.

Leaders should then report back to their teams on these in-depth discussions and incorporate newly acquired ideas and recommendations into their teams’ deliberation processes.

Invite Outside Expertise

Leaders should periodically introduce outside expertise into their team environments. This expertise can come from individuals who are trusted associates in their own organizations. They should be selected because of their inherent capacity to grasp new ideas quickly, their ability to identify hidden agendas, their sensitivity to moral and ethical issues and their verbal skills to effectively communicate criticism directly to the teams involved.

Regularly Rotate the Role of Devil’s Advocate

While the role of devil’s advocate is institutionalized in most team environments, leaders should assign the role to a different individual for each team meeting. This rotation gives all team members the opportunity to actively challenge the consensus of the majority at, instead of after, a team meeting.

Spend Time on Surveying Warning Signs

In order to counteract their team’s illusions of invulnerability and tendency to ignore warning signs that interfere with member complacency, leaders may need to make a concerted effort to induce both themselves and team members to pay specific attention to special risks and make appropriate contingency plans accordingly.

Even when team members are assigned specific roles to point out the potential risks that the group needs to consider, they are likely to disregard any warnings if there is a preexisting consensus among the members. Therefore it is critical for leaders to invest time and energy to address specific warning signs that may otherwise go unrecognized because of individual teams succumbing to a groupthink mode.

Holding a Second Consensus Meeting

In order to prevent premature consensus based on feelings of invulnerability, stereotypes and unexamined assumptions, second meetings should be scheduled before individual teams make actual commitments and after they have arrived at their initial consensus. When teams arrive at a consensus, leaders should announce this second meeting, providing individual members with a sufficient amount of time to ponder and reconsider their deliberations, discussions and solutions.

Members should be encouraged to play devil’s advocate and express all residual doubts and rethink entire issues before making any definitive decisions. They should be encouraged to challenge their own arguments and fully disclose and discuss all related risks and objections. Individual team members should present any and all possible objections that have not been previously discussed and explored.

To facilitate discussions, team members should be encouraged to prepare one to two-page documents ahead of time to stimulate open dialogues. These documents need to be collected, copied and disseminated to all team members at the second consensus meeting.

Team secretaries should compile and summarize all key points into a formal document that is given to all members, including the supporting documentation that every individual team member initially provided. This process ensures full disclosure and discussion of all key points, doubts and objections that were not originally brought up prior to the team consensus.


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Excerpt: Personality Differences within the Team Setting: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

January 28, 2013 at 10:39 am

How Employees Handle Conflict

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The natural tendencies of many individuals and other group dynamics can hinder a leader’s ability to be effective in resolving conflict in the group setting. The leader must take the time to observe and then rectify specific behaviors that interfere with conflict resolution.

When problems and issues arise, many individuals have a natural tendency to avoid friction. When that is not possible, they seek to remain uninvolved in its resolution.

Employees may be forced to be part of a group charged with solving a problem, but these individuals are often not happy about it. The fight-or-flight response takes over, and even if they are physically present, they have mentally left the conflict.

When problems do occur leaders must ensure that all viewpoints and perspectives are heard and all alternatives explored. Techniques can be utilized to ensure that all members of the group are included in both the discussion and crafting of an acceptable solution.

Leaders can look for specific behavior patterns in order to determine how employees handle conflict. These patterns may be nonverbal and not readily apparent, but a careful examination will help leaders spotlight the behaviors impeding conflict resolution and enable them to address and rectify the situation.

Related: Is Conflict Destructive to Your Organization?

Such an examination includes looking at:


The first behavioral patterns leaders need to explore are the alternatives that are considered when solving a problem in the group setting. Problems can present themselves and additional conflicts can be created if employees tend to consider only a few potential alternatives.

If leaders observe these patterns, they must engage the group in brainstorming techniques that explore all possible avenues toward resolution. This action fosters creative thinking within the group and provides innovative solutions to eliminate the causes of conflict.


Within some groups, the smoothing and avoiding approach to conflict resolution is predominant, resulting in areas of agreement being overemphasized while leaving areas of disagreement unexplored. This deficiency allows the situation to fester and explode into a bigger problem down the road.

When leaders observe this pattern, they must shift the group’s emphasis to balance areas of agreement with disagreement. All aspects must be fully examined and the alternatives considered before the problem can be adequately resolved.


Leaders need to observe how members respect individual disagreement, as group norms may keep any discordance from being voiced. In other situations, individuals who convey disagreement may be ridiculed, bullied or intimidated so that it is not taken seriously or considered by the group.

Leaders must ensure that all members of the group have an open and equal opportunity to voice any problems they might have and offer valid points and perspectives. Any attempt to quiet opposition will create additional conflict and deeper problems.

Related: The Challenge of Handling Conflict


There are many criteria that a group can consider in establishing agreement among its members. Some will use a majority vote, while others will arrive at a consensus before moving forward. Some group norms interpret a lack of opposition as agreement.

Leaders should shift the group toward a consensus where all viewpoints are both voiced and considered. All members of the group must be included, especially those who may be reluctant to say anything. Only in this fashion will all viewpoints, options or alternatives be considered.


In several conflict resolution modes, leaders should be watchful for members “stumping” for a specific viewpoint or perspective rather than inquiring about the potential alternatives available to the group.

Additionally, leaders can observe how actively members listen to each other’s perspectives and whether or not the members respect the input of all individuals. These clues help the leader determine the group’s openness to alternative perspectives.

Leaders must ensure that all perspectives are voiced and respected. The advocacy of one point of view without a full exploration of the facts and all possible solutions should not be tolerated.


The participation of individual members, their reactions to the group setting, and their involvement with specific issues should be carefully observed. Leaders should pay attention to whether members are apathetic, frustrated, defensive, warm or enthusiastic.

Each of these emotional states will impact both conflict resolution and problem solving. Apathy, frustration and defensive postures can result in faulty or unresolved solutions that will lead to subsequent issues.

Leaders should meet with each employee displaying negative personal attributes in order to determine the causes of their attitudes. In some cases, these attributes can surface because conflict and disagreement are not tolerated. Individuals may feel that their opinions are not respected or wanted. Such difficulties must be addressed if the group is to be effective.

Related: Conflict Turns Decision Making Upside Down


The final area that leaders must monitor closely is the interaction of individual members within the group environment. Some of these factors have already been discussed, including individuals who are overly nice and polite and emote only positive feelings.

Group members might too readily agree with one another while suppressing their true thoughts. This indicates that the group is in a destructive conflict resolution mode where suppression dominates and the status quo is maintained.

Leaders who observe these clues must intervene in meetings and take the initiative in order to draw out the true feelings and perspectives of the group. They can effectively do this by using open-ended questions that operate until satisfactory responses are obtained.

Excerpt: Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series by Timothy Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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