Within any group, whether a non-profit board, a management group in a business or a government task force, there are a range of personalities and communication styles. If a group of people meeting to make a decision or discuss a problem are left to their own devices, a few of the strongest personalities will dominate the conversation and roll over most of the others en route to a decision. With only a small minority of the voices heard (and often the same old ideas and ways of thinking), bad decisions or decisions lacking in innovation can be made. Even with a Group Facilitator present, these same folks will try to run the show. However, there are techniques I have learned doing Group Facilitation for more than 25 years to let the strong personalities still have their say, while making sure that everyone else can participate, too.
As the neutral in charge of the group process, it is important not to directly shut down the dominant personalities. This typically results in a direct confrontation between those people and the Group Facilitator (something to be studiously avoided). I always acknowledge them and their ideas, but make sure, from the beginning, that they know that others will also speak. At the first group meeting, the group approves ground rules that mention equal air time for all, respect for others and avoiding interruptions. The ground rules are then posted so that I can later remind the group of them when they are later ignored (and they always will be). I always use a flip chart to publically record everyone’s contributions/ideas/issues. Then, when a dominant personality tries to […]