And find ways to get the non-contributor to contribute more.

What do you do when you have someone dominating in your meetings? Don’t try to “change” the person who dominates the meeting. Their contributions are potentially valuable. Instead, focus your attention on the meeting participants that are contributing less.

Below are some suggestions to get folks to contribute more. Pick what works best for you and your situation.

  • Directly asking the relative passive contributor questions related to the agenda items in the meetings.
  • Look in the direction of the passive contributor and avoid paying attention to the dominate one.
  • Ask during the meeting for others to contribute by saying something like: “I would like to hear from the others.”
  • Ask outside of the meeting for others to contribute more by stating that their contribution is critical to the success of the project/team.
  • Position yourself closer to the non-contributing members.
  • Give a time limit for each contributor…and time it.
  • Use the one breath rule: you must be able to say what you want to say in one (or two) breaths.
  • Have each person contribute “serially.” That is, one person at a time and in some pre-established order.
  • Create a group agreement (Rule of Engagement) for others not to dominate (or others to contribute). And give everyone permission to call people on the behavior violating the agreement.

If all else fails talk to the dominating person privately. Make it clear to them that their contribution is valuable and so are the others. Therefore you would like to have them contribute less so the others can be heard too.

Ask Bruce: Do you have problems or concerns with your meetings? Ask Bruce for advice . Just write to MVP ask for Bruce.

Bruce Honig, Executive Director of IdeaGuides located in the San Francisco Bay Area, has over 30 years experience in facilitating business meetings and teaching others on how to have productive and engaging meetings.
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