Ethel Romm on Building Consensus

Building Consensus for Decision-making

Ethel Grodzins Romm was the President and CEO of NITON Corporation, a maker of scientific equipment. NITON is currently part of Thermo Fisher Scientific (NYSE: TMO.) Ethel is an accomplished engineer, entrepreneur and author.

Guy Kawasaki features Ethel Romm in his book ‘Hindsights: The Wisdom and Breakthroughs of Remarkable People.’ In her interview for this book, Ethel emphasizes the need for leaders to build consensus instead of enforcing their will.

Ethel Romm on Building Consensus

“Business is a garden of forked paths, and when we can’t agree on which one to take, then I make the call. There are occasions when you have to say, ‘I’m the president, and it’s got to go this way,’ but that’s the weakest appeal of all.”

“If it’s everybody’s decision—if everyone has helped to make it, or talked you out of something—then we’re all rowing together. Bosses say, ‘Go!’; leaders say, ‘Let’s go!'”

Sometimes, it is difficult for managers “to see why or how they are inefficient. They believe that they are succeeding—after all, nobody mutinies. They fail to understand that when you are the boss, everyone salutes you and follows your orders, regardless of your personality.”

“Thus, they are misled into believing that their meanness or callousness is keeping everyone in line. They can easily get the idea that if they don’t command, control, and coerce, the place will fall apart. The feedback is all wrong.”

Call for Action

Building Consensus for Decision-making Quite often, members of a team may realize that they have very little influence on the decision-making process and withdraw from active participation. However, the team buy-in on the decision to ensure prompt follow-up on expected contributions. Building consensus as part of the decision-making process, therefore, is one of the core team skills—for team members and team leaders.

Listen to every idea offered during a team conversation. Do not ignore or sidestep any ideas or concerns. Do not criticize or show objection. Instead, seek clarifications and discuss: “That is a great idea. And, one of the challenges we will face is…. How shall we work around that? What if we modify…? How about…?” Differences of opinion are natural and expected. Work on reaching decisions by building on the agreements.

As Dwight Eisenhower said, “Pull the string, and it will follow wherever you wish. Push it, and it will go nowhere at all.

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