Why Teams Should Work Like Quilting Bees to Gain Collaborative Consensus

Posted by Kristin Arnold on July 7, 2015

I am working on a special project for a client – and one of the team members has very specific opinions about the outcome.  As long as he gets his way, I am sure he’ll be happy.  So he sees his primary job is to influence, cajole, put down, ridicule and downright bully his teammates into agreeing with his original position.

That’s not teamwork.  That’s coercion.

Real teamwork performs more like a quilting bee.  This is where everyone brings their “patch” to the table.  It could be the best suggestion they have to contribute.  When the group is gathered, the patches are moved around to determine how each patch can best complement another patch.  Some patches aren’t used at all…. they are saved for another day.  Other patches are expanded or enhanced by other patches.

Once the group agrees on the overall layout and plan, then the work begins.  Fingers start flying, sewing the patches together into an extraordinary quilt.  Each quilter can proudly gaze at the final product and exclaim, “I did that!”  He or she will know exactly how they contributed and realize that the quilt could not have been done alone.  It was a team effort.

So how do you get from coercion to collaboration?  It’s takes a shift in mindset.  Each individual needs to think about what the issue or problem is, what is causing the problem and what possible solutions could be. Put your patch together!  

When the group comes together, highlight that we are looking for the best solution that will address the issue or problem. Highlight that we probably WON’T use just one person’s solution (otherwise, we wouldn’t have called a team together), but that we will aim for a collaborative consensus.  That means everyone can live with it AND support it upon implementation (and no belly-aching in the back lot).

When the group has agreed on the layout and plan, step back a moment to ensure group agreement.  Just like in a wedding ceremony, allow a bit of space for anyone to “speak now or forever hold your peace.”  

When you have a collaborative consensus, when it comes to implementation, those fingers will start flying!

Kristin Arnold is a professional meeting facilitator and international speaker who is passionate about teamwork. The Extraordinary Team’s approach to building high performance teams combines consulting, coaching, training and process facilitation within the context of working real issues. You can read more of her work in one of her books Team Basics, Email Basics, Team Energizers, or Boring to Bravo. 

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