Demitri asks: My colleague has an answer for everything and dominates all of our team meetings, screaming for attention. She bulldozes ideas and ridicules anyone who disagrees. No one on our team wants to step up and call her out on this “annoying” behavior. What can I/we do to create a more effective and positive experience in our meetings when we need to work with this type of person?
Dina Silver, Executive Leadership Coach responds:
Tough situation! As you are already experiencing, colleagues who dominate meetings create a range of challenges for other team members including: creating an atmosphere of annoyance, distaste, disaffection and disappointment for all present who are unable to participate fully and see no way to stop the bulldozer. Meetings become solo acts for the benefit of the loudest voice instead of forums for team collaboration.
It is the responsibility of the team leader to intervene in order to create a safe, innovative and participatory forum for all employees. Consider speaking to the team leader offline about this issue. Frame it as a need for stronger team dialogue and a desire for your meetings to be a forum where all voices are essential. Offer ideas for improving team communication.
Consider these suggestions:
- Limit the number of minutes each member speaks at a time (3 minutes, for example). You can use an egg timer, your watch or phone’s timer application. This will force everyone to pare down his/her thinking and share the crucial core of his idea.
- Every person who wishes to contribute to the conversation has the uninterrupted opportunity to do so.
- Phones and other devices are turned off during the meeting. If you are present in the room, be present. This ensures all participants are listening to each other and not simply waiting for their chance to talk.
- Start and end meetings on time. Do not catch late people up by rehashing what others have heard. This will be awkward at first, but people will adapt and appreciate this.
- Agree on meeting communication norms: no personal attacks, blaming, eye ball rolling or disdainful comments. Stop the behavior the moment it occurs.
Finally, every person in the room, including you, has a responsibility to enforce positive and collaborative communication. Do not let old habits creep back. Gently remind team members of the rules of engagement and help the conversation get back on track.