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Managing Bulldozers

MeetingsThe meeting is happening.  You're zipping plowing chugging stumbling through the agenda when somebody starts dominating the conversation.  The reasons for the domination may vary, but most often, you find these people want a couple of different things:

  • Attention - being a youngest child, I can appreciate this.  However, there's a time and a place, and meetings are not the place for rabid attention seekers
  • Ego - but enough about me, let's talk about me.  This person may feel as though s/he is the only one with something relevant to say.
  • Urgency - Perhaps there's a time frame or perceived importance factor... this one may have some relevance to the situation.

Regardless of the reason, it's Mutiny on the Bounty, and you're the captain who's going to go down with his ship if you don't rein in the situation quickly.  As Peg Kelley, meeting facilitator extraordinaire, shared on the InfoMean blog:

When you’re in a car on a trip, the easy ways to ruin the experience are to get stopped by the police when you disobey the rules of the road or to have the passengers fighting and complaining. The same is true of meetings. Let people know what the guidelines are. Do your best to keep the dialogue moving forward. Listen to all viewpoints, but don’t let one view dominate the others. Manage the time and discussion so that speakers change and participants are engaged. If you’re bored, so are others. If you’re tired of a particular voice, you’re not alone.

BulldozerWhich leads us to the need for a strategy... how can you as a leader or facilitator manage the renegade and runaway bulldozer who is threatening to monopolize your meeting?

  • Summarize - encapsulate what they've said and then call on somebody else - by name - specifically to get another view point.
  • Parking Lot - if the bulldozer is getting off topic, validate that you heard them by "parking" their comment on a separate sheet of flipchart paper you keep in the room for tangential items
  • Scribing - it's hard to talk while you're writing.  If I know that I have a potential dominator who needs to be in the room but won't add tremendous value, I make them the scribe.  This keeps them busy enough so they can't participate to their normal level.
  • Uninvite - don't let the person come back if s/he doesn't change the behavior (last resort).

Those are just a few suggestions.  How do you manage your meeting bulldozers?

Top Image from Despair.com

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Comments

Scot Herrick

Nice to see some good, tactical things that can be done. Meetings are the biggest waste of time on the planet, so anything that can be done to make them more productive and effective is a good thing.

Andy Brudtkuhl

I love that poster. I have it in my office!

Timothy Johnson

Scot - always try to add value where I can

Andy - despair.com rocks!

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