Holding a Good Vote
• Weigh the consequences. Voting by its very nature creates
winners and losers. So you have to be careful. You should only
take a vote when you know that the losers don’t really care all
that much. Otherwise you may be fighting the battle for a long
time after the decision has been made. With children, for
example, have them carefully consider if they’re okay with los
ing before they agree to have you take a poll.
• Know when to vote. When matters aren’t all that weighty, there
are many good choices to select from, and people care about
not taking too much time, then take a vote. It’s the kind of thing
you do to reduce lengthy lists. Vote to reduce the list of twenty
items to five. Then use consensus to select from the five.
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• Don’t cop out with a vote. When everyone cares a great deal
about an issue and people are having trouble coming to a
choice, don’t stop and call for a vote. Votes should never replace
patient analysis and healthy dialogue. If you find yourself say
ing, “All right, we’ll never agree so let’s vote,” you’re copping
Surviving the Joys of Consensus
Imagine you’re working with six people, all housed in a tight
space. Things are sailing along smoothly until one day when a
storage shed with a handle on top. It has its own set of wheels.
Thirty seconds later, the pulsing sounds of a band called Decibel
Death fill your area. You’re not happy. You fear your head will
explode. How might you handle this?
Or how about this challenge? How do you decide the temper
ature of the room you share?
Or how about this one? Where does the entire family go on
Or if you want to take on a real corker-who performs the
most distasteful jobs at home and at work?
These are the kinds of decisions where neither consultation nor
command tools work very well. Everyone is affected, everyone
cares, and there are several options-not equally liked. This kind
of crucial conversation calls for consensus. Everyone meets, hon
estly and openly discusses the choices, comes up with a variety of
ideas, and jointly makes a decision that each person agrees to sup
port. As is the case with all crucial conversations, this is not an
easy process and is routinely handled poorly. Here are some hints
for avoiding common mistakes .