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How to work with or manage a dominant personality?



Last week I met 2 clients who are very dominant people. They wanted to ask for support, but they didn’t accept listening, they wanted all my advices their way, it was funny. I remember that before I started to be a communication coach, it was not easy for me to deal with dominant personalities. Maybe because my core is very dominant. Today I know what are the benefits and costs for being dominant in any situation, and what is the most effective dose of domination I should use.


Dominance personality type:

Priorities: getting immediate results, taking action, challenging self and others

Motivated by: power and authority, competition, winning, success

Fears: loss of control, being taken advantage of, vulnerability

You will notice: self-confidence, directness, forcefulness, risk-taking

Limitations: lack of concern for others, impatience, insensitivity


Costs: stressful, missing good advice from team members and managers, doing things alone, always looking after the next goal, not being emotional, lack of trust and real cooperation, never giving up or making compromises.


How to work harmoniously with a dominant personality?


First of all, you don’t need to give up your caring or empathetic disposition to work along more brash personas. Almost every team has that one dominant personality who is motivated by winning, competition, and reaching results. While dominant personalities are often seen as commanding and confident, their characteristics have a flip side. They can also become obstinate, aggressive, and overly direct.


Dominant is someone who is outgoing and always up for a challenge, decisive, never hesitated, and takes fast action to drive new sales. Dominant’s demanding, assertive style landed the company new accounts, but it came at a cost. Dominant often upset senior leadership when he circumvented authority in order to push through new procedures. He also tended to fixate on sales targets to the detriment of long-term client relationships.


Working with Dominant can be a challenge, especially if you’re on the opposite end of the personality spectrum. Many of my coaching clients, who tend to be reserved, empathetic, people-oriented professionals, struggle with dominant personalities. They find their dominant colleagues’ controlling, demanding nature hard to deal with, and many of my clients have difficulty standing their ground in the face of the dominant type’s strong will.


If this sounds familiar, then you may find yourself wondering why your dominant colleagues do what they do and how to find peace in working with them. The good thing is that you don’t have to give up being kind hearted and caring, if that’s your natural disposition. But if you want to be successful in work life, then it’s essential you learn to work with personalities that are different than your own, including dominant types.


Here are a few ways to adapt your style to work more effectively with dominant personalities:


FOCUS ON THE “WHAT”—NOT THE “HOW”

Dominant personalities are task-oriented. They care about outcomes, not processes. When speaking with them, focus on concrete, tangible facts. Choose to make direct assertions or suggestions rather than approaching conversations as a brainstorming session. Talk about how your proposal affects the bottom line and the expected results.


SKIP THE SMALL TALK

Dominant personalities operate on urgency and appreciate efficiency. They are the type of colleague that you should skip pleasantries with and get straight to the point. For example, omit phrases, such as “How are you?” or “I hope you’re doing well,” from the start of your emails. Similarly, jump right into your meeting agenda, ensuring you keep banter to a minimum.


Don’t waste their time rehashing events, repeating details, or building up to your point. Lead with your key message and cut to the chase.


GIVE THEM INDEPENDENCE

To influence a dominant personality, you have to understand what motivates them, which is achievement and control. The more you can give this person room for independent problem-solving and decision-making, the more effective they’ll be. Dominant personalities prize autonomy, so don’t be surprised if one-on-ones are brief or non-existent. Before delegating to a dominant personality, make sure the areas of authority are clearly defined and articulated. Focus them on bold, ambitious long-term goals to keep them consistently aiming higher.


THOUGHTFULLY HIGHLIGHT AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT

When giving this type of person feedback about their performance, focus on how the behavior changes that you’re requesting help them reach their goals and get better results. For example, one of Gabe’s colleagues pointed out that Gabe’s bluntness was negatively impacting his direct reports. The colleague shared that if team members left, it would mean Gabe had fewer resources with which to fulfill client sales, and therefore, he may fall short of his targets. That framing inspired Gabe to change his approach. You can also use comparison as a way to constructively motivate those with dominant styles. For instance, highlight competitors who are performing better as a way to energize them to improve.


FILL THEIR GAPS

Healthy, productive teams require a mix of personalities. If you’re working alongside a dominant personality, boost their behavior by being their foil.


While dominant types tend to be innovative and progressive, they can also overlook risks and act too quickly. If you tend to be a more careful, deliberate decision maker, you can interject stability and reason into the process. Likewise, you can be the one to break down ambitious plans into specifics and guide actual implementation.


DON’T TAKE THEIR ACTIONS PERSONALLY!

Dominant types may respond curtly. Remember that their brusqueness does not mean they’re angry, upset, or rejecting you. Recognize that if they ask you pointed questions, it’s because they are engaging you, not because they lack trust. Expect brevity in your interactions, and understand that it’s part of their normal pattern of behavior—not a reflection of your adequacy.


If you’re someone who has struggled to assert yourself and speak up in the workplace, or have battled with overthinking and a lack of confidence in your decision making, then there’s a lot to learn from dominant types. Integrate the upside of their style into your own, and you’ll be amazed at your team’s effectiveness.


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