Agreement Vs Consensus in Meetings with Rachel Davey
Updated: Nov 18, 2019
“Everyone comes out stronger than before.”
This was one of the beautiful insights from our podcast guest Rachel.
Rachel saw firsthand the wonders that can happen when we begin to embrace conflict instead of avoiding it.
For example, she shares how working with us and using the tools we teach led to her organization having:
Clear communication up, down, and sideways
Clear understanding and buy-in around who makes what decisions
Alignment of ideas and goals
A stop to that feeling that you are rolling a rock up a hill
Are these things you are craving in your work or life? If so, we definitely recommend you listen (or read) this week’s show where we share how we helped Rachel and her team reach this ideal place and you can too.
Once you’ve enjoyed the episode, we’d love to know what you think, is what Rachel experiencing something you could see yourself having?
Find Your Mojo in Montana - Early bird is open now
CrisMarie: Welcome to the show, Rachel. Thank you so much.
Rachel Davey: Thank you.
CrisMarie: Yeah. Thank you so much for being here.
Rachel Davey: Oh, I'm excited to be here and connecting with the two of you again. Even though we're at a distance, it feels like with we're close again, which is great.
CrisMarie: Now, when we were working with you more closely, you were working at the Haven Institute in British Columbia. Correct?
Rachel Davey: That's right. I was the executive director there from 2006. I started in a different role. I started in 2006, in a different role and then became executive director 2008, all the way through to 2017. I left because I had to move to another place, so my kids could finish their education, but I still am strongly connected to the Haven and to Centers in general. Yeah, that's a little bit about that.
Susan: That's right. You actually are on a board now for the Centers, is that right?
Rachel Davey: Yes, that's right. I moved from being executive director to becoming a board member of what's called the Holistic Centers Network. We are a group of centers, well, at least the whole network is, covers the whole world, centers all over the world. It's very exciting. We get to get together every year at a particular center. I am actually heading off tomorrow to gorgeous Hollyhock on Cortes Island, which is about three hours north of where I am right now in Victoria, British Columbia, to spend a week with people from other centers, and brainstorming, and problem solving, and strategizing, and getting massages and swimming in the ocean.
CrisMarie: These are centers like the Haven Institute, Hollyhock, Esalen.
Rachel Davey: Yep, Omega, Findhorn in Scotland and all. New centers, really established centers, like Esalen and Findhorn have been around for 50 years. The Haven and Hollyhock have been around for 30 years. Then we have some people come who've just been going for a year or even they haven't started their center yet, but it's an idea they want to create. It's a really nice kind of bringing together of people and just it's in the spirit of collaboration where none of us see each other as competitors. We all like to come from a place of abundance. There are plenty of people out there and we don't need to fight over participants and in our programs.
It's better for all of us if we share our ideas. In particularly, those of us who've worked in the older, more established centers, we can kind of highlight some things you might not want to do.
CrisMarie: Lessons learned.
Rachel Davey: Learned from our mistakes, lessons hard learned. People need to make their own mistakes as well. It's a beautiful collaboration between, when you add it up, the people in the room, there's like hundreds of years of experience. It's a very rich,-
CrisMarie: Oh, that's pretty cool.
Rachel Davey: Yeah, it's very different to the sort of competitor model, which is great.
CrisMarie: I love that.
Susan: Which brings us to where we actually were with you, because at that time you were the executive director at the Haven Institute. You brought us in. Do you want to say a little bit about the situation, about why you brought us in?
CrisMarie: And the size of your team and what you were trying to accomplish, what you were doing?
Rachel Davey: Sure. You worked with us in different contexts with different groups and repeatedly over time, which was actually, I think one of the most beneficial things was that you came in, it wasn't just like a one shot deal. You weren't just working with the board. I think, I can't actually remember who you started with, but I remember that, was it the board or was it the management team?
CrisMarie: I think we first started with the-
Susan: You know, I think it was because you had gone through a whole-
Rachel Davey: The board.
Susan: The board, because you'd gone through that whole process of ... because you came in after having very strong founders and everything had shifted. There was a whole process of getting the board, your relationship to the board and support finding a board that was actually helping the overall flow of things.
CrisMarie: Well, I do have to also say that we were also leaders and we still are there, so we had lots of different ties that way as well.
Rachel Davey: That's something in that kind of organization is everyone wears many different hats, which is always an interesting one too. It's like, okay, who are you now in this context, in this meeting? That's also great because you don't have this kind of siloed, okay, I'm one of these and I don't know what you do over here. There's a lot of crossover, but yes, we had to ... Just to give a little bit of context, the organization had gone through, I think one of the most fundamental transitions you can go through, which is from a founder owned for profit organization, kind of like a family business.
That's the closest thing to a charitable organization, not for profit educational institution with a board and an ED.
I read some stat somewhere that it was on family businesses, but how few of them actually managed the transition. I think, I'm not sure that any of us at the time knew quite how huge it was. Great, probably a good thing at the time. I sort of liken it to, it's like being in labor, you kind of gotta go through it to get to the end.
CrisMarie: There's no turning back.
Rachel Davey: No, and it was difficult, it really was. We had difficult times. That's where you guys came in and you worked with the board, you worked with the management team and you'd come, I think you came two or three times, which was, that was super helpful. You came and worked with the staff as a whole. For me as ED, that was really useful because I could see, I participated in all of them. In some things I was more of an active participant in others. I wanted to sit back, particularly with the staff, and let them participate on their own behalf. I could see threads from each of those different groups. I could see similar things coming out.
I think one of your questions was, why did we do it? I think it was part of that transition process. One of the things that got us through, we made it through successfully. I think it took about five years, but in terms of all the different things that happen till we got to a point of what I would call relative stability, you don't want to be too stable, but where everyone sort of felt confident and aligned and moving forward in the same direction. That was about five years I think.
CrisMarie: Think probably when we were working with the board and even the management team, we were working one, to help develop the trust in those two groups and have the tough conversations, and then get clear on the overall organizational clarity. That was a lot of what we were doing. Then helping kind of drive that clarity down into the staff while also hearing what was working and what wasn't, and helping you folks more clear communication up, down, sideways through the organization.
Rachel Davey: Yes. Also I think two things that to me are actually can be described very simply. Who makes what decision, because when you've gone from a founder owned family owned business, it's super clear who makes the decisions. The founders, the family, the head of the family, they make the decision. That's it. Everyone else, we're all good. It's a nice simple model. If you don't like the decision, you probably don't want to stay in the organization. It's a really nice clear model. Then you move from that to, okay you have the ED, and you have the management team, and you have the board and you know a lot of that was sort of unpicking or delineating the boundaries, who decides what.
Susan: You also had the challenge as someone who was the faculty member from when this started, to when it shifted, you had the faculty, which was a whole group of really independent contractors who had-
CrisMarie: Strong opinions.
Susan: -been part of a family business and we're now part of a non family business. Which I think created its own challenges as a member of that faculty. I'm sure I was a part of the challenge, but you know that-
Rachel Davey: I'm going to plead the fifth on that, Susan, just so that we don't get into that too. I always said about the Haven, there was never any shortage of people who cared about the organization and that was actually always ... Sometimes I would think, "Oh, could you just care a little less or you know." Actually it was very helpful because when people seem to be a long distance from each other, it was always possible to find common ground in that your intention is for the organization to do well.
No one that I worked with wanted the organization to fail or do badly. Even when people seemed really far apart, you can come back to that fundamental principle, which was really helpful.
CrisMarie: That's a good point, Rachel. I mean we talk about teams and when you're dealing with conflict, having mutual purpose is kind of the going in position to get people aligned. If you can't really align around that, people will fight over strategies, my way. It can be quite divisive. If you can get people to remember, hey, we are on the same team, we do want the same thing, even though like you said, we look very far
apart in how we're approaching that.
Rachel Davey: One of the things that you guys helped me understand is, alignment is not agreement, but it's actually ... In some ways, you can fight your whole life to get agreement and never get there, but you can get alignment. You can get people who will agree to disagree and align. You know?
CrisMarie: Exactly, yeah, it's the clarity versus ... We talk about disagree and commit, meaning, you've heard me, I get we're still going that other direction, but I will support that direction. People can do that as adults. If we feel heard and considered, we can usually get behind an idea.
Rachel Davey: That is really powerful because I think a lot of executives waste a lot of time trying to get agreement. Then people feel they have to leave because they can't agree and there's no place for them in the organization, because they can't agree. An agreement is what we want. We want everyone to agree. It's really especially ... I wouldn't say especially at the Haven. It's very difficult to get people to agree. I mean it's not just the Haven. People like to disagree about things and I think it's a good thing. I wouldn't say it was my natural environment, but I learned to live in the discomfort of disagreement and conflict. Once the goal was reset for me and you helped me do that, reset the goal to alignment rather than agreement, it didn't seem so impossible to get there. Do you know what I mean?
There seem to be a path that otherwise was just like me rolling a rock up the hill, and then it would roll down again. It's like that kind of thing. That was actually the first thing I was talking about, who made what decision. The second part was, surfacing
disagreement, surfacing conflict, because there was a lot, but often it was really hidden.
It would come out in another way and I'd be like, oh, why is this person doing that. If you take the time to go underneath it, you'll understand that it's coming, that it's actually connected to something else that's really not obvious.
In day to day work, it's really hard to find the time to go into that depth. It's like a regular health checkup to have someone come and spend a day, two days, three days, just kind of bringing all that to the surface and not just, what do you agree and disagree on, but what kind of person are you. If I understand more about you as a person then I might understand why this is such an issue for you. When for me it's like, can we just get on with it, can we just say, "Yes," and move on? That was good for me.
Susan: Yes. I wanted to say, because I think ... I mean one thing, and you could tell me where I'm wrong here, but I think even working with you, what I appreciated about you is you recognize, you would get into conflict but there was also a part of your style that was a bit conflict avoidance yourself.
Rachel Davey: Oh, yes.
Susan: As a matter of fact, that I think you would often say, like, this is not where I want to go, but this is good for us. What helped you get better at being in those types of situations, to go forward and unearth that conflict, so that you weren't just pushing the rock up the hill?
Rachel Davey: Well, and that's the metaphor that I would use, is that if you ... What I discovered was, yes, I will absolutely describe myself as conflict avoidant. I learned better in my time as ED, but my first instinct is always to smooth things over and move on. It's like, okay, can we just all say, "Yes," and then move on and be done with it. What I realized, of course, is that even if I managed to do that, and there was some very strong personalities, which was good, because they often wouldn't let me just do that. I think in other contexts people might be more passive and be like, okay, whatever. She just wants to move on.
We'll just talk about this after the meeting. We'll just bitch about this after the meeting, but it'll come back and bite you in the butt. What I found was in every meeting, I began to dread meetings because it's like, oh my god, are we going to do this again? Here we are again. I've rolled the rock up the hill and it's just rolled all the way back down again. Here we are. What I realized is that this is the ... Again, it's very natural to go, why is this person so difficult? Like, why does this issue keep coming up? The important and the tough learning pieces, like what is my part in this repetition. What am I doing as the leader of this group of people, of this team, what am I doing that this keeps happening?
CrisMarie: I love that, Rachel, that you're actually ... Because so many people will think it's just the problem person. We must have to get rid of them, versus it's always a two way dynamic or a multi-variable dynamic. To actually step back, which we do coach leaders to do, step back and say, "Wait a minute, how am I creating this situation? What am I doing that's participating in making this happen," is a really powerful move. That acknowledgement and that internal introspection to see what part you're playing.
Rachel Davey: Yes. Yeah, absolutely. The idea that it's, this is the problem person, what I learned from you guys is, so first of all, I can acknowledge that someone is different from me without having to agree with them because then there's this idea of, okay, if I'm just going to let them talk and talk and talk and do whatever though, I've lost control of the meeting or whatever, the situation. It's not that. You can make space for people without giving up everything to them. There's that balance between the two. Also, that one person or two people, they're very valuable because they're surfacing things that other people may well be thinking, but not saying. I think a lot of people are conflict avoidant. I'm in Canada. We're a very polite people. We don't like to get into it. A lot of people don't.
Just because one person is saying it, it's a mistake to think that only one person is thinking it.
CrisMarie: Yeah, even if nobody else wants to.
Rachel Davey: Even if nobody else, even if other people are rolling their eyes or whatever, it's telling you something. Sometimes it's telling you something you don't need to pay attention to, but you still need to deal with it. You know what I mean? It's this thing about people being heard. I think we often think, oh my god, people being heard. That means I've got to spend four hours just listening to them talk-
Rachel Davey: That's not the case. It doesn't take a lot.
Susan: I was thinking probably one of the things that I know we talk about a lot, it's really important in couples and I think it's really important on teams, is when somebody is that difficult person, you know the tendency is to say, "Oh, here they go again," versus, so why is that so important to you? I think that was something I saw you be able to do well at different points, is to try to get underneath what is like you said, earth ... surface the conflict and ask that question, "Why are you so dug in to that position and why is it so important?" Then you can get to the underlying issue.
CrisMarie: Issue. I also appreciate you said, "It's hard sometimes to do that in day to day operations and so if you don't, then you have the meeting after the meeting which is so ineffective." Taking time, like we would usually come and work with you for a couple of days, taking that time to really help people settle in, so they actually are willing to speak up and develop that environment to get underneath those problems are, it's powerful.
Rachel Davey: Yeah, most definitely is. It's always the thing of, oh, we don't have time. We're so busy. We're doing this, that and the other. When your team meetings start to go on for sort of two or three hours, that's a lot of time too, especially if you're meeting weekly. You come out of those meetings feeling dissatisfied or you dread going into them. Then if you add up all those hours, that's an awful lot of time. Plus, people are generally feeling dissatisfied. If you're dreading a meeting or coming out for a meeting, feeling dissatisfied, likely other people are too. Financially, it's a great investment. What I noticed is that, and we would need the tuneups after a year or six months or something, it's a bit like taking a car for a service, it's easy to fall back into the old patterns.
There was a shift in things. We aren't the kind of industry that measures productivity, but I bet you it went up. I bet people felt happier about things. There was a greater level of satisfaction. People would say, "That was great. I really enjoyed that. Can we do it again," even though sometimes it was painful and difficult, and surfaced things that normally wouldn't be surfaced. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. When we talk about the person or sometimes people who often find themselves in conflict with the team or the organization, sometimes it is the right decision for them to move on and go somewhere else.
It's not like, okay, now this person has to stay forever because they're ... But again, if all I was doing was just kind of smoothing it over and moving on, even if that, the right decision was for that person to leave, we wouldn't ever get there. You know?
They might leave in a way ... I came to understand that someone leaving an organization is sometimes a really ... It can be a very rich and beneficial process. You can learn so much and it can be done in a way that is, not always, but more often than I think we normally do, it can be done in a way that where the organization can learn, the leader of the organization can learn, the person who's leaving can learn, and everyone comes out of that experience stronger than they were before. More often than not, stuff is just bubbling up underneath and then someone just walks out, you know?
CrisMarie: Yeah. Then nothing gets learned from that experience for sure.
Susan: I was thinking, I mean it's interesting because you're in that education or personal growth and development professional center. It's interesting, because we do a lot of work in for profit businesses that are very different than that. They take pride in being able to fight and fire and do whatever they need to do. Yet you were in a culture that sometimes consensus are, everyone needs to agree was even more deeply
embedded in the belief system that it had to be that way. You were-
Susan: -kind of challenging that culture.
CrisMarie: We certainly, we agree with the ... We don't believe in consensus. We do believe in alignment.
Rachel Davey: It was interesting because there is also a balance. It's like, we provided meals, we had a kitchen. We have a kitchen providing meals for participants. One of the things, it's like breakfast, lunch and dinner has to be out by a certain time. Whatever's going on, it's like, it's got to be out at 12, and maybe we can deal with this afterwards. This is an interesting other aspect of working there is that, sometimes people would come and work for us who'd been in programs and would think that the workplace was like the program and it wasn't. There are certain things that just have to be done. That doesn't actually mean that you have to throw everything else out the window.
There were times where I was like, I get it, I see this is happening, we need to get lunch out. Let's do that and then book a time afterwards and deal with this. There are priorities. We can't just drop everything. That was always an interesting balancing act. People had expectations and there were things that needed to be done at particular times. In that way we were somewhat traditional as well.
CrisMarie: You got to get your work done.
Rachel Davey: Yeah, you've got to get the food out. That was always my ... whether it was the ... It was often not the kitchen staff, but I would use that as an example. It's like, you know, I get it, but lunch has got to be out at 12. How are we going to do that and this?
CrisMarie: Well Rachel, if you think about all the different things that we did in partnering with you, what's your number one takeaway that you're still ... like that you take to the boards that you're on now and the groups that you're engaged in?
Rachel Davey: There are a couple of things. One of the things that I think was always really useful was, you would begin with some kind of a personality assessment or something like that where we shelved all the work stuff or we put the agenda to one side and talked about ourselves. Again, it didn't take hours. In a very sort of efficient way, but had me understand more about the people that I work with, and have them understand more about me. It probably wasn't obvious to everyone I was working with.
Essentially, I'm an introvert, because I was an introvert working in an extrovert's job.
I've always done that, but there were important aspects of me as an introvert that it's actually really useful for my team to understand and equally get, and the other way round as well. I think that was certainly one of the most useful things that, that we did as a team. What do I do now? Well, I listened for the ... Sometimes I am the difficult person. Do you see what you've created? Sometimes I'm the one that's like-
CrisMarie: You've come a long way.
Rachel Davey: I know, you've created a monster. Sometimes I'm the person that ... but I'm often not the person who's necessarily raising the issue, though sometimes I am. I'm often the person that's like, okay, we have to stop right now. I know everyone wants to move on. I get it. I mean we've only got another half an hour of the meeting, but the agenda that we have here is not actually as important as dealing with what we have right now, because we have a fundamental difference of opinion right now, which if we don't go into it, it's just going to go underground and come out somewhere else.
CrisMarie: It is, and you're not going to actually get forward movement on that topic you're talking about because that person's-
Rachel Davey: And you're definitely not going to get alignment, because if people don't feel like whatever they're saying is not being heard, then they're going to object to whatever you want to do, whether they agree with it or not because you just get resentful. It's like, I don't care if I agree with it. I'm just going to ... I'm not going to go along with this. I don't feel part of this, so why should I go along with it? Then whatever you try and do gets to be difficult. That's when you can hit a sort of point of inertia. Nothing is happening.
That's what I have carried forward. That, that listening maybe overriding my first instinct, which is like, can we just carry on, can we just move on, and saying, "Okay, we all have to stop." This is-
CrisMarie: I love that. It's like slowing down, to go fast, because if you do slow down, you're not going to have as much rework and backlog and things going under underground.
Susan: I think also, I love that you're bringing up the importance of even adding that first piece about building the willingness to show up vulnerability and real as a person. Doing that healthy work in the service of doing the smart business results work, so that both are being taken care of in the same meeting, because so often those things get separated. Yet when they come together, that's when you can make real transformation and change.
CrisMarie: That's what we always like to do, is start off with what we call healthy, which are all those interpersonal dynamics and who we are as people, and show up more vulnerably and real. Then once people settle in, they're going to actually show up when they're talking about the business issues more honestly. You're going to get the real things on the table and be able to, like you say, let's slow down, something's going on and if we don't unravel this, we're going to go sideways later.
Rachel Davey: Yeah. I'm sure people listening to this might be like, oh, a personal development center. Of course they're going to do all this kind of woo woo stuff and blah blah. Honestly, I think it works in any kind of organization and business. I came from, it was still in education, but a much more sort of corporate style approach. It would have worked there as well if I'd known about it. I really believe that whatever it is, whatever an organization is doing, this will improve productivity and improve satisfaction, which will reduce turnover of staff, which will cost you less in terms of training people. It's, I don't know, about a triple bottom line. It's like there's a win everywhere there, you know?
CrisMarie: We agree. We agree. We think it does actually hit bottom line results significantly. We have found that even in the profit ... We work for Microsoft, Nationwide, big companies that do this and they make significant progress when they have the real conversations.
Rachel Davey: Yeah. I think if I look back to 10 years ago, this is much more, I think, visible in the more traditional corporate structures, because I mean there's that Einstein thing about, what is it, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. You cannot bully and force and force your way to alignment. You just can't.
CrisMarie: No, that's great, Rachel.
Susan: It's not sustainable.
Rachel Davey: People will just keep leaving. It's like, okay, that's really expensive. Not only are they leaving and they're pissed off with you, and there is that thing about, if you like something you'd tell one person, if you don't like them, you'd tell seven, so your reputation is, your organization's reputation, even after the person has left, is still being damaged. It's like, everywhere you look in this, if you don't, I think if you sort of try and force alignment, if you try, it's a problem.
CrisMarie: Yes. That is so true. This has been delightful, Rachel. We love reconnecting with you.
Rachel Davey: Yes, it's been super fun. Thank you.
Susan: All right, CrisMarie. We just finished a fun interview with Rachel Davey. I hope you enjoyed that and we wanted to take a few minutes to just debrief our key takeaways.
CrisMarie: Yeah. What I really appreciated about Rachel, we did work with her through that major transition from profit founded driven business to a nonprofit board structure, ED structure. I really loved when she talked about, well, even there right at the end when she talked about, take some time away from the business, do a strategic day or two, and start with how are we like personalities or how can we build some more vulnerability based trust.
Susan: Yes. I loved that she really would take the time in a meeting and the importance of mining and surfacing conflict, because I know people don't really want that because it can seem inefficient. I love that she was saying really, no, not at all, because if you don't do it, it's going to come back around in some way. We didn't even prompt her.
CrisMarie: No, we didn't prompt her with any of this. The piece about, she said we don't need to get everybody to agree and that so many businesses think they need consensus on a team, and the idea about no alignment, not consensus, that disagree and commit, what can we walk. If I have heard you and we've got enough information, are you willing to support this direction, so that when people walk out they're aligned with their words and their actions.
Susan: Yes. Hopefully you got what you needed from this, but we can provide you a couple tools. Like, if you're interested, we will put a link into the show notes on, How To Get To Make Your Meetings Matter, because that does talk about some of the things to do to make sure you include both the smart and healthy in your meetings.
CrisMarie: Yeah. We also have, How To Have Tough Conversations At Work, which is another little handout we could give a link to.
Susan: In case you are courageous enough to start surfacing that conflict instead of just letting it erode into the organization in unhealthy ways.
CrisMarie: We have a kickstart your team, which is an overview of how we do do those strategic two day off sites, when we work with organizations.
Susan: So. Okay, and of course we always recommend that you consider purchasing our book, The Beauty Of Conflict, Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage.
CrisMarie: If you have any questions or you're wondering, feel free to reach out. We're more than happy to answer your questions. We'll put that email address in the show notes as well. We appreciate you listening. You take care.
Susan: Yes. Okay, bye.
Thank you for listening to the beauty of conflict podcast. If you're in a couple and you want to work with us and the horses, then come and join us for our Couples Mojo Program. The next Couples Mojo program is going to be happening at Apache Springs Resort in Arizona. This is a beautiful location and it will be happening October 25th to the 28th of this year. Now, for those of you wondering why would I come to a Couples Mojo program, well, not only do you get the benefit of some of the things we've learned over the years, but if you have any hesitation about giving your significant other feedback, trust me, the horses will give it to them for you.
CrisMarie: Rarely do couples take the time to step out of their busy lives, and engage, and digest, and look in their relationship. When you do, you can increase your intimacy, your passion, your aliveness and your emotional connection. It's a really fun time and Apache Springs is beautiful. We'll also be doing one in Montana in the springtime, so stay tuned for more information about that. You can sign up for Couples Mojo On Our Website.
Susan: You can also find our articles, join our newsletter there, buy our other books and learn more about other programs we're going to be offering.
CrisMarie: If you enjoyed this show, please tell a few friends or post a five star review on iTunes. Your review helps new listeners discover the show. More people listening to this show means less friction, and arguing, and suffering out in the world. That's a great thing for everyone. Okay. Thanks for listening. Hope you have a peaceful, productive, and beautiful day.
CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke
Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict
CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.
They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.
Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn.
Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It!
Pre-order their new book The Beauty of Conflict for Couples: Igniting Passion, Intimacy, and Connection in Your Relationship.