Some people have a way of taking over a meeting. They dominate the conversation, forcefully push their opinions at every opportunity, and more times than not, manage to get their way.
If these folks generally do have the best ideas, their behavior may not be a huge problem. Perhaps the others in the meeting agree with them, view them as a natural leaders and defer to them because of the respect they have earned.
Unfortunately, you probably aren’t that lucky. Imagine a scenario where the same people keep gathering for meetings. Perhaps it is a departmental staff meeting or a routine project update. In this situation, these dominators are creating big problems for you.
Their ideas aren’t that good. They are so aggressive in their approach that others have become afraid to challenge their opinions. Over time, it seems as if many of the attendees have checked out. Your job is to bring them back to the table as active participants.
3 Dominator Prevention Actions
Here are three actions you might take as the team leader.
1. Encourage further debate
When you think the team has shut down after the influential person has made her point, ask others to share their reactions. Strongly seek out more opinions.
To draw out contrarian views, you may need to specifically ask for some. You might say,
“Doug thinks we ought to pursue the first option. He makes a good case. Still, I’m concerned we haven’t even heard any support for the other two options. Who’s willing to make one of those cases?”
2. Quiet the dominator
Have a private conversation with the person. Share with her your concerns about the imbalanced decision making. Thank her for contributing so much. Ask her to join you in helping others voice their opinions by holding back her own.
Even if you have a conversation, the person might forget. They get excited about the topic and can’t help but jump back in.
During your private conversation, you might want to suggest a code phrase that will remind the person to dial it back. That way if they hear, “What are some other right answers,” they know you are reminding them to give others a chance.
3. Talk to the quiet ones
Through a private conversation ask for their opinions. Find out if they had anything they wanted to say, but felt uncomfortable doing so.
If it turns out that they were holding back, discuss what, if anything, might help them enter more fully into the group conversations. You might discover the quiet ones just did not see the need to speak.
Be clear that you value their opinions and want them to participate more fully in the group discussions.
Balance the participation
People who dominate in every meeting they attend can be scary. Someone needs to deal with them. That someone is you.