How To Lead A Dominant Employee

How To Lead A Dominant Employee

How To Lead A Dominant Employee

I am an avid student of human behaviour and the amazing possibilities that our minds open for us.

I shed clothing and got into an ice hole. I did a fire walk on hot coals barefoot.

However, my mental conditioning goes out the window in the face of a strange dog. I am fully submissive in their presence. I have been intimidated out of my wits by dogs lying still in front of their gate.

The fact that I was willing to give up my right to walk on a public thoroughfare because of my perception of a threat gives us an important starting point in unravelling how to lead a dominant team member.

An important starting point is to recognize that at its core Dominance feeds on Intimidation and Submission. What is not widely recognized is that domination can be self-inflicted!

That is an important take-away from my experience. I took it upon myself to be dominated by dogs who had no interest in me as I later realized when I finally developed the courage to walk past them.

I was also afraid of our Deputy Headmaster until one rainy day he sang “Clementine” with us.

How many of the encounters that we have labelled as engaging DOMINANCE are really fabrications of our own making?

I recall making a huge advance with a team building exercise when I drilled down to learn that reason one of the prime antagonist was at daggers drawn with a colleague is that he “seemed arrogant.”

“Seemed…” is the start of a slippery slope in inter-personal relationships. We make progress when we challenge our perceptions. Is this real or imagined?

Weeding out self-inflicted domination is the first step towards the capacity to lead dominant personalities effectively.

The dog analogy is instructive.

Dominance is actually a style of behaviour and with it comes certain attitudes, mannerisms and actions.

One such mannerism is the equivalent of seemingly aggressive barking. That barking is not necessarily supported by a commitment or intention to bite. However, its intensity puts doubt in the mind of others and the barker protects its position. The barking demeanour creates a feeling of intimidation in others.

Individuals who use Dominance as their preferred style of interacting with others may come across as aggressive, pushy and even threatening. It is now a part of their persona. The tone and body language might not be a reflection of issues with an individual or particular situation or even of awareness of heightened animation on their part.

“Why are you shouting?” is received with genuine surprise. “Shouting, me?”

“Why are you angry?” is also not understood. “I am not angry. I am just being emphatic.”

An important second step in leading dominant team members is to make the distinction between bark, bite and intention to bite. We identified weeding out self-induced domination as the first step.

===== Slide: Steps 1 2

The second skill to develop is the capacity to identify when barking is not linked to biting or the intention to bite.

Yes…some barks are clear signals that biting is about to take place. Others are just a natural outflow of “barking” that appears intimidating but has no real animosity behind it.

The secret here is the need to look beyond tone and body language which complicate communication with dominant personalities. Work to distil the essence of what is taking place without the noise of demeanour.

This is a challenging but fundamental mechanism for dealing effectively with dominant personalities.

The voice may be raised and there is animation but what are we dealing with at the core here?

Is there a request being made? Is it a reasonable request?

Is there an issue that needs clarification?

Is there blustering taking place to distract from impending disciplinary action?

Keeping your focus on the core issue helps you to avoid being distracted by the noise of tone and body language.

You need to take that foundation principle into dealing with a dominant team member.

=======Slide What are your Dominant colleague challenges?

So what challenges are you facing with dominant team members in your environment?

Is it a challenge to your authority or a failure to conform?

Can you type in the chat window the specific challenge that you are experiencing with a team member. I will open the mic for 2 individuals to share your challenge. So, we will just pause a minute to get a sense of the issues with leading a dominant team member that you are experiencing.

{Have partners Keri/Crystol/Tessa read some of the comments}

I am going to share a two-part strategy that has an impeccable track record of success.

However, before that it is important to deepen our understanding of Dominance as a behavioural style.

Mind sets linked to Dominance include a strong desire to WIN. Not just win but to make a notable contribution to winning.

There is also a need to have some influence over results. Sitting in the back seat away from the steering wheel is distinctly uncomfortable. In that situation, back-seat driving is a natural outlet.

That is the equivalent of the second-guessing and push back that leaders get from dominant team members.

====== Slide Empowerment

Satisfying this need for active and meaningful engagement points the way to the third step in leading dominant personalities more effectively.

Positive results will come from identifying ways to give the team member a greater sense of involvement in achieving desired results.

From the Empowerment slide special focus should be placed on #3 Involve and #4 Educate.

Share where we are going and the route we are taking and why we have chosen that route. Actively take on board feedback and explain what can be incorporated and why and what cannot be accommodated now and why.

A companion strategy is to make a concerted effort to show respect and being attentive to their contribution. This recognition can produce surprisingly positive results.

=====Slide Knighthood

Whatever level the individual may be at, give them clarity about their contribution to bringing the vision to fruition and to successful completion of the mission.

=== Slide Steps 1, 2, 3

This then is the third step in quest to lead dominant team members more effectively:

Link their role to the vision, involve them and respect their contribution.


In the final analysis, however, further action may be required. This is especially true at higher levels of the organization. We now have mid-career individuals who want to advance their development and test their leadership muscles.

Being given instructions day after wears thin with dominant personalities. Organizations bemoan high turnover and brain drain among valued staff buy many fail to implement strategies to engage these individuals and keep them in the fold.

It would be good if organizations would develop a corporate plan to deal with the issue but in its absence individual team leaders can implement a proven strategy.

Here is a reliable approach that may be used in different circumstances with some creativity.

While leading a team building and leadership development session the CEO of a Correctional Service complained about the hassles he was having with his second in command. The strategy that was implemented with great success was as follows.

=====Slide Share your stage

The CEO identified a discrete area of his responsibilities and assigned it to his second in command.

Two outcomes were possible. The job would be well done in which case the CEO would have one less area of focus while getting the second in command (2IC) off his back.

Another possibility is that the 2IC could mess up. In that case the CEO would use the opportunity to highlight how challenging the job is. Since 2IC is not able to effectively deliver on just one aspect of his overall responsibility it would be wise for 2IC to show greater respect and accept the leadership of the CEO.

As it turned out the 2IC was pleased with the opportunity to demonstrate his leadership skills and this resulted in a strengthening of the leadership structure and improved relationships.

The key take-away from this is the fact that dominant personalities want to drive. They want to have their hands on the steering wheel. The closer you can get to allowing even an occasional side-steer, the more comfortable and cooperative they will be.

===slide Steps 1 – 4

Devise strategies to move them from the THEY side of the WE | THEY work place divide to being associated with or being a part of the WE.

We recall our school days. The smart teachers placed the noisy trouble makers in charge of maintaining discipline.  That role shift produced a transformation of the classroom dynamics.

The same principles may be applied to the work environment. Find some element of your role that could be shared. This does not have to be a formal promotion.

Get the dominant team member to see themselves in a different role and context. Do that effectively and you will experience less push back and greater levels of cooperation.

=== slide Suggestion

Finally, a friendly suggestion.

Fighting fire with fire and head butting really produces no winners in the long run. Punishment might drive the resistance underground but is more likely to be a drag on performance and team spirit.

Follow the 4 steps outlined today for best results in leading dominant personalities.

These principles are incorporated in our 3-D Leader Certification: Leading Difficult People

===== 3 D Leader slide

  • The program is accredited by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and offers 16 Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for the SHRM-CPSM or SHRM-SCPSM certifications.
  • This is the first accreditation designed to address the vexed issue of leading difficult people.
  • It involves over 16 facilitator-led, interactive hours of coaching.
  • 12 months of access to online courseware
  • 12 months e-mail Consultation
  • 4 follow-up coaching Webinars – one per quarter
  • Online exclusive Facebook Community – learn, mingle, connect.


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Tomorrow we will deal with What is DISCerning Communication & How To Use it

Friday: How to Apply A Different Perspective on “Difficult People”


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