What is Consensus in Board Meetings?

Consensus

Consensus in board meetings refers to the members’ general agreement on a topic without requiring a vote. The term can also refer to the process of reaching an agreement.

In a consensus meeting, everyone has a chance to present their arguments before the group. The members then decide on a solution that everyone can get behind. While a majority vote requires most participants to agree or disagree, a consensus requires all members to agree on a course of action.

How do you record consensus decisions in the minutes?

In the meeting minutes, consensus decisions are marked as “agreed to by consensus”. Unlike deciding on motions, a consensus does not include the name of the proposer in the minutes. This shows that it is the board that takes ownership of the outcome, rather than an individual. 

Advantages of consensus decision-making

Here are some reasons for incorporating consensus decision-making in meetings:

  • Fostering team spirit

In consensus decision-making, everyone’s opinion holds the same weight. This helps prevent any perceived abuse of power among high-ranking directors and encourages contributions from everyone on an equal footing.

  • Shared ownership of decisions

When all the members are involved in a decision, they share accountability and ownership. Thus, they are more likely to participate and work on the associated tasks to make it a success.

  • Better collaboration

Consensus enables the board to share power as all members work together to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs. This improves board collaboration and teamwork.

  • Improved creativity and problem-solving skills

Consensus warrants a “win-win” solution which ensures that no member has to compromise too much. This leads to an exchange of insightful ideas from diverse perspectives woven together to address all key concerns.

  • Improves board relationship

When you place equal value on each board member’s ideas, you are respecting their needs and opinions. This leads to better director relationships and trust.

When is consensus decision-making needed?

The following scenarios might require a consensus:

  • When there are multiple stakeholders with a variety of views. In this case, there is  no simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and the board needs to work together to find a solution
  • Where the board needs to find a creative solution to a problem. For complex issues, consensus allows for a range of views and experiences to help create a route map
  • Finalising a strategy. When a decision requires thorough consideration and analysis, it’s important to involve the experts. Holding a consensus meeting will allow everyone to make an informed decision.

Difference between consensus and unanimous decisions

Even though consensus and unanimous decisions entail all members to concur, the processes differ. A consensus encourages objections and opposing arguments to craft a solution and does not require a vote. A unanimous decision is when all members vote the same way on a motion.

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