Leading Teams – Decisions by Consensus vs. Conviction

To have an effective decision-making process as a CEO or a CRO, you don’t want to lead with consesus.

I like what David Cancel, CEO at Drift, says about consensus: “Seek Feedback, Not Consensus.”

One of Drift’s Leadership Principles is: Seek feedback, not consensus.

Seek feedback to get to the best idea, not to create agreement or consensus. We believe consensus creates average ideas, average speed, and average results. We don’t vote on ideas or decisions. The best idea will never sound like the best idea to everyone, so we validate with the customer instead of committees. When a decision is made, we move forward (disagree and commit).”

David Cancel says “It’s better to disagree and commit. Make that decision and then be responsible for it and learn from it. When it succeeds and when it fails.” (Source: Drift.com: Stop Waiting for Perfect)

Drift also talks about observing and adjusting after the decision is made to act.


Deciding by “Conviction” and not Consensus

I like what David Cancel does – and for my teams I refer to it as as a process of Conviction.

Firstly, as a leader, it is very important to:

  • hear feedback from your team team (and this is why you hire talented and smart people to surround you on your team)
  • Listen to the input carefully
  • Acknowledge that you heard the feedback and especially the negative feedback
  • Be thoughtful about the feedback – respond after a process of rumination and don’t just react
  • But leadership is not a process of “democracy” because, as a leader, you preserve the right to make the final call which necessarily comes after you ruminate on all the feedback and then achieve a point of conviction
  • This point of conviction gives you the ability to advocate for your final decision (and everyone knows and trusts that you heard and understood them – and this is important to do as a credible leader)

The goal is to achieve the best result as a team, not to be always right.  It’s the team that has to be right, not just you individually as a leader.

And it’s also not important who gets the credit for the feedback that led to the Conviction-driven final call.

As Harry Truman said: “It is amazing who you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”  What matters is you made the right call as a team and that a leader heard and took in everyone’s feedback.  That’s how the best decisions are made.