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Making Decisions: Voting and Super-Majority Voting

Voting is the best-known and most commonly used method for making final decisions. For many issues, it can be the easiest and quickest way to decide a matter. It's simple: when voting, the majority wins.

If your group wants to make sure there is a high level of agreement, you can set a super-majority ground rule before voting. In that case, you will require that two-thirds or three-quarters of the votes be "yes" votes.

Let's look at an example: Imagine that an elementary-school faculty is choosing a retirement gift for its outgoing principal. A committee was appointed at the last meeting to research gift ideas. That group now proposes that a gift certificate to the Paradise Travel Agency is the most appropriate gift. After some discussion, you, as the facilitator, restate the question to be voted on: Do you agree that our gift to the principal will be a gift certificate to the Paradise Travel Agency? The faculty then gives a show of hands: 80 percent agree and 20 percent disagree. You report the result to the group. Then the committee moves on to implement the plan.

If you are voting on a sensitive issue, you might use ballots rather than a show of hands or voices.

Voting is not without concerns as a method of making decisions. The biggest concern with voting is this: because voting is a win-lose process, disaffected losers may not be committed to supporting and implementing the result. If that is a concern, you might want to try a slight variation: You can first do a straw poll. After everyone sees that 80 percent of faculty members agree and 20 percent disagree, you can ask those who disagree to talk about why they voted that way. That way, the dissenters have an opportunity to put good reasons or alternatives on the table for the entire faculty to consider. After listening to those people, call for a final vote.

NEXT WEEK IN GREAT MEETINGS: Be sure everybody is in agreement by using levels of consensus.

Key Points To Take Away

--- Use voting when the issue requires a quick, definitive answer, or when it is required by law.
--- Be aware that voting may create disaffected losers.
--- Be sure that the question to be voted on is clearly stated.
--- If the issue is sensitive, use ballots rather than a show of hands or voices.


About Great Meetings

Pam Plumb and Dee Kelsey are your facilitators in charge of Education World's Great Meetings series. They are also authors of the popular guide to meeting facilitation, Great Meetings! Great Results. Together, Pam and Dee have more than 40 years' experience facilitating change and training meeting leaders.

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