Spin the Dominant Voice
A dominant voice during a team discussion often inhibits others from making a contribution and can derail a fruitful exchange. When team members go too far and hijack the conversation, teams don’t make the progress they should. Irritated colleagues learn to wait out the dominant voice, often withdrawing from the discussion. As eyes glaze over, those who talk too much rarely catch on, as they love what they are saying way more than they like an exchange of views.
Team members look to the leader to recapture the discussion and release the chokehold of the dominant voice. This is quite a challenge, even for skillful leaders, as those holding court rarely want to give back control.
Interrupting or talking over the energizer bunny only delays them for few moments, as they quickly have another contribution to make that they believe is more important than anyone else’s. Leaders must do something or risk making any meeting that includes the dominant team member less productive.
Speaking to this team member offline, before group discussions to ask them politely not to dominate the discussion usually only works for a brief time and can result in the offending party sulking the entire meeting. Asking for opinions from the group in a round robin format with the dominant party going last can work once or twice, but is not practical in many meetings.
Leaders must have another trick up their sleeve to fight off the dominant voice and save the team.
The maneuver employed by master facilitators is to redirect the dominant party’s contribution toward the group. Skillful leaders use something said by the dominant team member as a jumping off point, and then spin it back to the group. “I like your proposal. What does everyone else think?” takes the power away from the long-winded party and redirects it to the group.
Here are some other examples of this spin move:
“That’s one argument. Let’s hear some others.”
“You clearly feel passionate about that. Let’s hear what others feel passionate about.”
“I want to explore the word ‘strategy,' because I think it means something more than just the idea of a plan.”
“You make a good point, but I know there are other views on this.”
“I admire how you articulate the idea, but I’m not sure everyone agrees with it.”
Taking something said and redirecting it allows others to take the floor. If necessary, the spin move can be repeated frequently without the dominant party knowing what happened or questioning why.
Good leaders simply can’t allow any voice to overwhelm team discussion or drown out other voices. The jump and spin move is worth practicing in real time. A good spin will sometimes turn things around.