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Emma Littmoden

The Living Leader


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Living Leader Learnings – How do I stop a valuable employee from dominating meetings?


The challenge

A divisional team leader for marketing at an FMCG manufacturer says:
 “I head up the Divisional Marketing team of 12, and whilst they all have different strengths one is particularly dominant. For example, during meetings I feel this individual dominates to the point that others cannot get their point across. However, when this one person is absent, team performance drops. As a leader, how can I best manage the talent and spread reliance across the group without a fall in results?”
The solution
The Living Leader responds:
When individual top performers begin to support their colleagues to make contributions, the whole team will take on a new dynamic and overall performance will improve.
The scenario described above reminds me of so many team sporting situations that we’ve heard about over the past few months – difficult players who take up all the attention and sap the energy of the team and the manager, but who have the ability to turn performance around.
Firstly, what is your ideal outcome here? Presumably, to have everyone feeling confident to contribute to discussions and projects, while maintaining the input of this individual in a more focused and supportive way.
I would suggest that this is not a challenge to be dealt with during the meetings, but on a wider basis. How much time are you currently investing in supporting the development of other members of the team? How much of your attention are they receiving?
If you can find some one-to-one time with each of them to talk through the kinds of challenges and opportunities you are facing as a team, encourage them to share their thinking with you when there are no other interruptions, then, when you get to the meetings, you can actively invite each of them to share their thinking by saying something like, “when you and I talked about this the other day, you had some excellent thoughts which I would like you to share with the rest of the team".
This means that they know exactly what they want to say, you have already voiced your support and it is likely therefore that they will present themselves confidently and assertively, making it difficult for them to be interrupted. 
In addition, do you know why this individual attempts to dominate? Are they aware of their impact? Do they just need to know that you value them? Try asking them this question, “if you knew that you could support the other members of the team to perform at their best, how would you approach the next team meeting differently”. They may well surprise you with their response.
One of our clients had a similar situation. Having attended our leadership development programme they decided to implement the options above. The feedback we received was that they actually discovered the individual concerned was really ambitious and therefore keen to be recognised, but had been unaware of the negative impact they were having.  
The client reassured the individual just how vital they were to the team performance and then explained that to become an outstanding leader, it was critical that they understood the importance of developing others around them as leaders, otherwise how could their career progress?
Emma Littmoden is a partner at leadership programme provider, The Living Leader.
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One Response

  1. Tricky Balance

    It is always a fine balance in Sales and Marketing, as you often have star performers who are not the best of team players.  I read this with interest and will definitely keep it in mind.

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Emma Littmoden


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