Tag Archive: consensus

A Simple Tool for Measuring Idea Support

How do you know when your idea is gaining consensus within the group? In groups, there are usually two kinds of people – those who express their thoughts without prompting, and those who rarely express their thoughts.  If you’re not careful, you’ll allow those who do speak to speak on behalf of those who don’t, and you may start believing that the ideas of those who spoke up are reflective of the whole group.

And then there are times when most everyone speaks up. You exchange ideas and opinions about a new idea or initiative and yet, you can’t quite determine where the group is with it. For it? Against it? Indifferent?

When I arrived at Brentwood Baptist Church the church’s senior leadership team used a simple tool to quickly ascertain how a group felt about an idea. By simply holding up a finger to represent a number on a scale, you could get a snapshot of how the group felt about an idea.

In our case, Jim Baker would scribble the following words on the white board:

Love it – 5

Like it – 4

Live with it – 3

Leary of it – 2

Loathe it – 1

Then all at the same time, each individual in the meeting would hold up their hand and represent their feeling about the idea with a certain number of fingers. We’d total the group’s finger count, divide by the number of those voting, and get a snapshot of support for the idea.

The vote average will come out 3.7 or 2.1, or some days, 4.9. (This is usually when we ask questions like, “Are you in favor of adding vacation days for our staff?”)

I use this tool from time to time in meetings I lead, and when I do, it can usually tell me if…

  • The idea already has traction
  • The idea is going to require more talk, work, and support gaining
  • The idea is Dead On Arrival

I’ve written before about the importance of you as a meeting leader establishing whether you’re looking for consensus or simply asking for input. If you employ this voting tool, I suggest you let your group know how and why you’re using their votes. (You can read the consensus blog here.)

It’s a simple tool that’ll allow you real-time results during a meeting to gauge how far along an idea or concept is from getting instituted or going away.

I hope this blog post gets a 3+.

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Consensus Or Input — Clarity For Your Meetings

When inviting feedback from a group, are you seeking consensus or just input?

Help and support signpost

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Knowing what you want, and communicating that expectation to the group, is an important task for a leader to do well.

Many leaders invite dialogue from a group of people, as if they’re looking for consensus among the group for a decision. But in reality, the leader only wants their input, not their consensus. This is often done unintentionally but it can be a fatal leadership mistake.

The group hears a leader say, “I want unanimity amongst all of you.” But then the leader leaves the group, goes back to his/her office, considers their opinions, and declares a decision on his or her own.

Seeking feedback and input in order to reach a decision point is perfectly fine, but only if the people from whom you sought feedback know what role their feedback is going to have.

A leader must be clear about what they desire from the groups they’re dialoguing with.

Consider one of these opening comments at your next group-think sessions:

“I need to reach a decision. I’ll ultimately make the final call, but your input would help me formulate my decision. Will you provide me feedback?”


“I value and trust your opinions, and I want your help in reaching a decision. Whatever the consensus of this group is when we leave is the action I’ll take.”

I think either statement is appropriate for a leader to make, but let the group know their role in the decision making process.

Another serious leadership gaff is to provide a group the opportunity to give feedback for a decision you’ve already made. At best, it’s poor relational intelligence. At worst, it’s lying.

If you’re going to make a decision unilaterally, that’s fine, but own up to it.

Practical Takeaways for everyday church leadership:

  1. When seeking input, be transparent with your intentions.
  2. Don’t ask for input if you’re not going to use it or at least consider it.
  3. If you’re making your decisions Lone Ranger style, own up to it.


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Thinking Gray

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The times when I implement “thinking gray,” I have most often saved myself from making a poor decision and usually save myself time. Steven Sample, in his book The Contrarians Guide to Leadership, unpacks the idea of “thinking gray.”

The major takeaway is this: when an important decision isn’t mandated to be made at the moment it’s asked for, pause and think gray. Thinking gray means this:

  • Back away;
  • Don’t pull the trigger when more time could help bring clarity;
  • And set the decision point just prior to the deadline for the decision.

It may seem as if you’re dragging things out and procrastinating. But the created mean-time can provide your answer. What transpires before the decision deadline can be magical.

The people asking for your decision often find other ways to go about getting what they need. The decision-seekers think creatively and often think of a work-around to get a solution. And oftentimes, some external factor occurs and renders your pending decision null.

Thinking gray also gives you time to think clearly and do a virtual SWOT in your head. Many times you’ll come back to your initial thought (gut reaction) on making the decision. But many times, things change, and you have no decision to make.

When you can save your decision-making for the highest leadership questions—the decisions no else can make—the better off you and your organization will be. You only have so much personal power, and saving that power for critical decisions has pay-offs.

A simple way to begin the process of “thinking gray” is to ask these questions when a decision has been requested:

  • What options and solutions have you (the asker) considered?
  • Who else is involved in making the decision?
  • What’s the deadline for a decision being reached?

By nature, I tend to be black and white. I like quick results. But paradoxically, thinking gray has served me well and might do the same for you.


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