A new year comes with a lot of exciting things– new marketing campaigns, new organizational strategies, and a fresh vision to guide the impact our organizations will have. Don’t let these exciting things become laborious as they go through the required board approval process for your BID. To kick off the new year, rather than focusing on what new marketing effort you may be implementing this year, we want to focus on how you can best go about getting approval through our guide for building consensus.
Boards’ approval processes are often structured as a Majority-Vote model. While this traditional method has its benefits, it can create an environment wherein minority concerns, perspectives, and opinions are easily overlooked. Additionally, when all parties need to agree, there is risk of watering down the effort into something on which many different stakeholders, with sometimes opposing viewpoints and interests, can all agree.
To be successful in this instance, building consensus is the key. A Consensus-Building model that enables an equal sharing of power, high engagement by decision-makers, and a framework that protects the fidelity of effort will ensure a high-quality result. By incorporating these tactics, you will create space for all voices to be heard, foster a collaborative environment among your board, and aid your board in discovering the best possible strategy.
Before we dive into the practical steps, we want to start by explaining a mindset shift for the board approval process for the presenter and facilitator. Rather than viewing the time as a presentation and then voting, we are adding in a structured discussion-based segment for the board to engage with.
- Set Expectations. This all starts with setting the right expectations, ensuring everyone in the room has the same context and understands the parameters of what is being discussed. This step is what we traditionally consider the “presentation” section of the board approval process.
- Share Ideas. The next step that the group engages in is a brainstorming session. In order to avoid “group think,” it is best to have a structured discussion where all members first write down their thoughts, ideas, or questions before proceeding to an allotted time for all group members to share. It is key to foster a sense of safety in the discussion by not shutting down ideas, making sure everyone is heard, being curious towards any assumptions noticed and taking the time to clarify.
- Form Proposals. Once ideas have been shared and recorded, it is time to start forming proposed solutions to the problem, sometimes grouping multiple members’ ideas. Specifically form a proposal that includes the most important needs being met, and includes elements from multiple perspectives.
- Amend Proposals. Work together to find what would make the current proposal even stronger.
- Test for Agreement. State the refined proposal and check if there is agreement. For anyone not in agreement, start by asking why in order to identify opportunities to create a better, more inclusive proposal. Then help them define if they are wanting to “block” the proposal entirely, “stand aside,” or if they have “reservations.” Out of the three categories not in consensus, ask “why” for each to uncover new understandings, and new solutions. This step will take you back to step three and four in a cyclical manner until all concerns are fleshed out and implemented in order to reach a true consensus. Once all oppositions have been identified and have been utilized to refine the proposal, the end of this step would resolve in a majority-vote passing the proposal.
- Implementation. The final step is deciding on the implementation and following through with accountability measures including deadlines, check-in, and follow-ups.
Looking beyond the constraints of the Majority-Vote model, we hope this provides insights into a different approach that focuses on fostering a collaborative environment and creating buy-in from your board. A Consensus-Building model means you’ll be facilitating an equal sharing of ideas, win-win mindsets from your stakeholders, and stewarding your board to come to the highest and best decision for your district. With these new tools for fostering a collaborative environment and building consensus and buy-in from your board, it’s now time to go out there, dream big, and present to your board with skill and confidence.