Nov 15 2010








Find yourself doing much of that lately?

Maybe it’s the economy?

When times are tight, people get tight.

When people get tight, they can get worried.

When people worry, they can become defensive, aggressive, manipulative, territorial, and often, job-threatened.


Reaching agreement becomes increasingly challenging, and sometimes it feels close to impossible. It can be especially problematic when working with volunteer groups.

When your business or key issues come to a grinding halt, you can:

  1. Draw Straws
  2. Flip a Coin
  3. Go Bonkers
  4. Call in the Police
  5. Work it Out (Recommended)


Working it out, for two people –as those who are married, engaged, courting, living together, or partnered know all too well– means that someone must give up something.

Working it out for three or more might also mean giving stuff up, but more likely –if it’s to be any kind of meaningful reconciliation of divergent thinking– some type of collaborative compromising of interests is generally desirable.

Reaching consensus involves a synergistic process. It means that everyone within the group (team, task force, department, division, company) must agree at least somewhat with the resolve or conclusion or direction reached. Note “somewhat.”

Consensus-seeking can be a very effective leadership/teamwork method of problem solving because it inherently prevents any one person from “winning” a “competition.” Everyone involved must be able to agree that she or he can live with the way things are worked out.

As a device for settling disputes, consensus-seeking flies in the face of traditional American brainwashing to win at all costs. It is (sorry, football fans) not the case that there always needs to be a winner and loser, and that there is no such thing as second place.

For those deep, dark, impulsive, no-constraints,

take-off-the-gloves moments,

go for a referee or umpire.

(You can also always call your Mother-in-law!<) 


For issues that will impact working (or living) together, consensus-seeking leaves all involved parties with some worthy scraps to cling to, allows everyone to save face, and usually prompts a process or procedure or product or production (ah, communicative benefits of alliteration!) to occur that is both measurable and accountable. Because it’s a group-effort pursuit! 

As leader/facilitator, Pfeiffer and Jones suggest in the University Associates Structured Experiences for Human Relations Training, you need to establish consensus-seeking “rules” to help ensure productive results by employing the following guidelines: 

  • No averaging,
  • No “majority rule” voting.
  • No “horse-trading.” 


You need to influence group members to avoid arguing in order to “win” as an individual. Seek instead the best collective judgment of the group as a whole. Conflict on ideas, solutions, predictions, etc. should be viewed as helping rather than hindering the process.

Problems are best solved when individual group members accept responsibility for both hearing and being heard. Tension-reducing behaviors can be useful as long as meaningful conflict is not “smoothed over” prematurely.

The best results flow from a fusion of information, logic, and emotion (feelings). Need a little coaching help? Call me.


302.933.0116 or Hal@BusinessWorks.US  

Thanks for visiting. Go for your goals! God Bless You,

and God Bless all of our U.S. Troops and Veterans.

 “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance!” [Thomas Jefferson] 

Make today a GREAT day for someone!

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Sep 15 2009


Exceptionally Rewarding?


OR Extremely Frustrating?


     Common to most volunteer groups  I’ve experienced as a management consultant and trainer is that they bite off more than they can chew! Goals are generally vague and too all-encompassing, which creates feelings of frustration, prompts rapid turnover, and frequently results in failure.

     Remember that group goal structures  and criteria are no different than the ones I’ve discussed here for individuals.   are two good examples worth checking] 

     For a goal to be a genuine goal  and not a “wishlist” item, you’ll find at the above links — among other points — that a goal must be specific, realistic, flexible, and have a due date, and it must adhere to all 4 criteria. You may want to re-read the last sentence. It contains the guts of establishing goals that work for individuals as well as groups, and it’s worth giving some thought to each of the 4 criteria.

     Why are meaningful goals  particularly important in working with volunteers. Because achievement leads to feelings of success, and feelings of success are the ONLY attributes that can sustain and justify volunteer effort. 

All other problem solutions mean little unless (volunteer group) members feel that they are progressing toward an achievable goal.

     According to  the training profession benchmark University Associates Editors Jones and Pfeiffer in one of their classic  Annual Handbooks for Group Facilitators, “All other problem solutions mean little unless (volunteer group) members feel that they are progressing toward an achievable goal.”

     One way to accomplish the task  of setting realistic objectives — based on consensus and group decision-making methods — “is for volunteers to set aside a block of time to devote totally to planning,” say Jones and Pfeiffer.

     Volunteer groups,  the much-acclaimed editing team experts go on to say, also need to establish meaningful and appropriate contracts between group members and the organization. And these contracts need to spell out what each individual can and will do.

     To function at a high performance level,  volunteers should also have regularly-scheduled group meetings, individual written job descriptions, and a permanent agenda item of “Are we meeting our job descriptions and how should they be upgraded as we go forward?”

     Leadership and accountability  require designation of project leaders and a volunteer coordinator, plus a “buddy system” orientation arrangement for introducing new group members. Rewards (e.g., expense grants, certificates, academic credits, extra training opportunities, news release coverage, commendation letters), and attention to the process that evolves are all critical ingredients in making volunteer group leadership work.    

# # # 

Hal@Businessworks.US  302.933.0116 or comment below.

Thanks for visiting. Go for your goals, and God bless you!

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