3 Ways To Keep Dominant Personalities From Ruining Meetings


Photo: flickr/kismihok

There’s a reason people complain about and dread meetings in the workplace. They frequently drag on and on without ever accomplishing anything. Often, that’s because a few people end up dominating the meeting.According to Kellogg School of Management professor Leigh Thompson, the author of “Creative Conspiracy,” in a typical eight-person group, three people do 70 per cent of the talking. That can not only alienate the other five, but creates the problem of “production blocking” when people attempt to speak over one another.

In an excerpt of her book published at Fortune, Thompson lays out three strategies that can prevent people from dominating a discussion, and lead to better, more collaborative work.


Pass out a bunch of index cards, have everyone write down ideas, anonymously. No one is permitted to reveal which idea was theirs, or guess out loud as to who came up with others. Vote or otherwise flag the top ideas and assign teams to build on them. This technique significantly increases idea output, and adds new viewpoints and perspectives to each idea generated. 

Nominal Group Technique

Instead of having people in defined groups, have people work independently on a task or idea generation, then pool the results later on. These sorts of groups have been found to significantly outperform interactive groups for brainstorming tasks.


Rather than talking, have everybody in the room anonymously type ideas into a central discussion board. This not only keeps dominant personalities from taking over a discussion, it also easily solves the idea of production blocking. 

Just because meetings are traditional doesn’t mean they’re the most efficient way of doing things. Attempting an alternate structure is an easy way to break a team out of a frustrating rut and come up with new ideas.

Find Thompson’s book here

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