I have never been a big fan of traditional voting on complex and important decisions. The outcomes of a yes/no vote rarely represent true consensus. When we are serious about leading a healthy and principled organisation and we genuinely want to move things forward it is important to understand the power of genuine consensus.

When we reach genuine consensus the team moves forward. Committed, engaged and resolute. How many times have we made a decision based on a simple vote but in practice what we thought represents\ed agreement on a visionary idea was in reality a vote on “Hey, who wants to end this meeting quickly.” 🤷‍♂️😄


The consensus method I want to share creates a climate whereby everyone needs to authentically commit to the decision making process. A yes , is rarely a simple yes. There are always conditions. In this model everyone’s ideas are heard, and you come to a decision that all team members can support and commit to. This interactive and consultative process can deliver powerful goodwill. It makes decisions very real!

Consensus Decision Making Model

The Process

Participants first spend appropriate time discussing the topic in question. It could be 20 min or 2 weeks. The discussion can take part in groups, pairs or as a whole team. Whatever is appropriate for the topic you are exploring. When it is clear that all information has been shared and debated openly the meeting then calls for a vote.

How to Vote ?

Participants raise their hand a little differently!

5 fingers means, “I like this a lot, I think it’s the best possible decision.”

4 fingers means, “This is fine.”

3 fingers means, “I’m in the middle somewhere. Like some of it, but not all.”

2 fingers means “I don’t much like this but I’ll go along.”

1 finger means, “I’ll just barely go along.” or, “I don’t like this but it’s not quite a no.” and “I have an alternative.”

or, “I think there is lots more work to do on this proposal.” In consensus this indicates standing aside, or not being in agreement but not blocking the consensus.

A fist means, “I Vote NO.” or in consensus it means , “I object and will block consensus (usually on moral grounds).”

When is a Decision Confirmed?

People who vote 1’s or by fists are most often given a chance to speak and have their concerns addressed one by one. Each person gets a chance to speak and present their case. Depending on the outcome of this input and the ability of the group to address the concerns a second vote might then be taken.

It would be concerning if too many people voted 1 or 2 because you know there must be some significant objections. Note also that you can adjust the model and place a condition on “1” that the person should provide an alternative solution. This way the objection must come with some conditions that the person is making genuine attempts to work collaboratively. To say no is fine but it is helpful when alternatives are offered.

The greatest advantages of this model is that it creates a frame around effective decision making that guides people to be collaborative and positive. It concentrates on and cares about good process.Objectors will stop or slow down progress. In this model leaders have justified mechanisms in place to ensure they know exactly how committed the team are, or are not, to the plan.

Remember, strong leadership delivers results. It might sometimes be more pertinent to invest more time to get effective commitment so that you know you can truly achieve your goals.

For more details check out a full explanation on the podcast: Global Leadership with Greg Parry: Consensus Decision Making Models



CEO and Education Expert Greg Parry

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Internationally renowned for his expertise in education leadership, Greg Parry’s vast experience includes leadership of projects for edu-cation institutions throughout Australia, the Middle East, the United States, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and China. Recognised for his numerous contributions in the education arena, Greg has received the Ministers Award for Excellence in School Leadership based on improvements in school performance and a range of successful principal training and leadership development programs, as well as the School of Excellence Award for Industry/School Partnerships and the School of Excellence Award for Technology Innovation. His company GSE (Global Services in Education) has been recognised as having the Best Global Brand in International Education in 2015 and 2016.

Considered one of the premier experts in his profession, Greg has trained teachers and principals throughout the world in areas such as critical thinking, language development and leadership. His expertise in school start up projects, leadership and curriculum development, has made him a sought after authority in these disciplines.

Who is Global Services in Education (GSE)

Global Services in Education is a full service education management company led by education experts. They are proven education and business leaders who know how to set up and manage international schools in unique cultural contexts. GSE lead education projects from the initial idea to set up and full management. Kindergarten, Primary, Middle and High School, Universities and Adult education.

School Acquisition: GSE represents investors looking to acquire schools or evaluate potential of school group expansion.

GSE Brand


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