Learning to Lead While in a Group Setting

Being a great leader does not mean being the lone wolf in the office that makes all the decisions and gets the most work done. In fact, being a leader is quite the opposite. By definition, being a leader means that you have someone looking up towards you for direction, guidance, advice, and mentorship. The fact of the matter is that in 99% of careers, you will need to work with others in a team or group setting and play the parts of both a leader and a follower.

Working with teams can be challenging. People have different backgrounds, experience, levels of knowledge, and opinions. Without strong leadership, teams often fail to reach decisions or can even backslide whereby the team can actually regress instead of making progress. For a great article on Ten Reasons Why Teams Fail check out this link.

Among two of the biggest challenges when it comes to teams is how to build consensus and how to make sure you (as well as everyone) is heard.  The rest of this article will focus on these questions.

Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.

Patrick Lencioni

How do you build consensus among diverse opinions?

Building consensus can be a challenging endeavor, however, there are many methods to achieve this. The method you choose will depend on the size and makeup of the group, the type of decision being made, and the personalities and positions of those people involved in the group.

To start, I would first make sure that everyone in the group has had a chance to voice their opinion. Next, I would take everyone’s ideas and write them down on a list and look for ways to group them into categories. I would also take this time to fuel the discussion regarding the pros and cons of each of the opinions.  Finally, as a group, we could keep going around the room moving the discussion forward until one of the opinions stands out and receives a majority vote.

However, in some cases coming to an agreement as a group is not possible. As a leader, you can’t always make everyone happy. In these situations, the group leader must listen to everyone’s opinion and make the final decision. The decision could be base upon what is best for the group as a whole or which opinion moves the group closer to the organization’s goals while keeping in line with their mission, vision, and values. Note that the group leader may not necessarily be the person with the highest rank or most experience.

How do you make sure you are heard in a group?

To be heard in a group it pays dividends not to be quiet and reserved. If you have something that needs to be said be sure to catch the attention of the person leading the group. Someone will always be leading the group and one of the easiest ways to get their attention is to simply raise your hand. This action will let the group leader know that you have something to add to the conversation. The person talking will usually finish what they are saying so that you can be called on to make your statement.

Another way to make sure that you (and everyone for that matter) are heard in a group setting is to simply make a point to take turns talking. One technique to give everyone an opportunity to speak is to employ a “talking stick.” The talking stick is an object that is passed from person to person as they speak. Only the person holding the stick is allowed to talk during that time period. Everyone else must listen. Finally, the group leader should be conscientious of the flow of the conversation and ask questions all people to make sure that everyone has had a chance to speak.

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