Managing Monsters in Meetings - Part 5, Dominant ParticipantsWritten by Steve Kaye
While dominant participants contribute significantly to success of a meeting, they can also overwhelm, intimidate, and exclude others. Thus, you want to control their energy without losing their support.
Approach 1: Ask others to contribute
Asking quiet participants to contribute indirectly moderates more dominant participants. Say:
"Before we continue, I want to hear from rest of group."
"This is great. And I wonder what else we could do." (Look at quiet participants when you say this.)
Approach 2: Change process
A balanced dialogue equalizes participation and sequential participation (a round robin) prevents anyone from dominating discussion.
Approach 3: Include them in process
Ask dominant participants for their support during meeting. Meet with person privately and say:
"I need your help with something. It's clear to me that you know a great deal about this issue and have many good ideas. I also want to hear what other people in meeting have to say. So, I wonder if you could hold back a little, to let others contribute."
You can also retain control by giving away minor tasks. For example, dominant participants make excellent helpers. They can distribute materials, run errands, serve as scribes, deliver messages, post chart papers, run demonstration units, operate projectors, change overhead transparencies, act as greeters, and in general perform any logistical task related to meeting.
Approach 4: Create barriers
Simply move away from more aggressive participants and make less eye contact. If you are unable to see them, you are unable to recognize them as next speaker.
Managing Monsters in Meetings - Part 1, General Strategies for Unproductive BehaviorWritten by Steve Kaye
It happens easily. You're conducting a meeting and suddenly a small side meeting starts. Then someone introduces an unrelated issue. Someone else ridicules new issue. Everyone laughs, except person who mentioned idea. Then someone insults person who told joke. Two people stand up and walk out. Others complain that meeting is a waste of time.
Now, what do you do?
And how do you prevent this sort of thing from happening?
Or what could you have done to stop it once it started?
Here are basic strategies for dealing with unproductive behavior in meetings.
Respect other people. Always treat others with respect, even if they are doing things that seem wrong. Their "bad" behavior could be based on many things, such as a lack of skill, a misunderstanding, or a response to a threat. It could also be a simple mistake. Or maybe they're expressing an indirect warning, complaint, or cry of pain. If you respond with disrespect, such as with a counterattack, you will make a bad situation worse. They will either retreat, which means they stop contributing to your meeting, or they will retaliate, which can escalate to an argument that ruins your meeting.
Ask questions. Use questions to find out what is really happening. For example, when someone introduced a new issue, you could have responded by saying, "That sounds interesting, and I wonder how that relates to what we are working on." Notice that this is a neutral, gentle question. It is not a trick question like, "What are your trying to do, ruin my meeting?" and it is not a command like, "Hey, stick to topic." Both of these (hostile) responses put other person in an awkward position, which is a form of disrespect.