We’ve heard from so many of you as you struggle to know how to move forward in this difficult time, that we want to share a lesson that can be game-changing in your personal and professional life. And that is that voting is not always the best way to a decision.

As we work with communities, non-profit organizations, and businesses, we frequently see decisions being made by a vote. It makes sense as we have all grown up with the idea that voting is the essence of a democracy. And, while voting is one way to get input in situations with large numbers of people, it does have its downside.

The downside of voting is that up to 49% of the team, company, community, or country is unhappy. 49%. That means that after a vote, it’s possible that only half of the people are behind the decision you voted on.

Think about that.

If you’re trying to lead a team and almost half of that team disagrees with the decision, then you have the equivalent of a wagon with two horses—one on either end of the wagon pulling as hard as they can. Sure the one that has 51% may move in their direction, but only slightly and very slowly.

Put those two horses on the same side of the wagon, pulling in the same direction, and you can move far and fast!

So, what do you do if you don’t vote? You work toward alignment.

Alignment and not consensus. Alignment is the point where people have been in dialogue, shared their perspectives and needs, made a decision with all of those in mind recognizing that some people can’t have what they want exactly, right away, but they understand the decision and can stand behind it even if it’s not their first choice.

Here is an example:

We recently met with a team of leaders who had to make some budgeting decisions.

Most of us are making budgeting decisions all the time—our individual budgets, our family budgets, community budgets, and work budgets. And what we know is that you can’t have everything you want individually, and when you add other people, everyone can’t get exactly what they want.

This team started to talk about what their budget was and what they needed to do to have the greatest success going forward. And, of course, there wasn’t enough money to do it all.

So, they went back to their shared vision and talked about it and determined what absolutely needed to get done to support that vision. Still not enough money.

Next they talked about what they needed to get done to get traction on their vision until more revenue was earned—getting closer.

Then they prioritized what on that list would get them the farthest. Decisions made. Not forever, but for now with the limits of what was available.

At the end of that process, while most people didn’t get exactly what they wanted they were able to influence the decision, understand the tradeoffs, believe that this was the best decision and most importantly, they could stand behind it confident that they would continue to be in dialogue as things evolved.

Think about using this process next time you need to make a major decision that doesn’t have unilateral support at the outset. You’d be surprised how much more you can accomplish when you take the time to create alignment instead of just calling for a VOTE that will likely leave you divided as a group.

Let us know if you need help!

Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

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