Teamwork #Peopleskills: Keys to Initiating Not Dominating

Teamwork: What’s the difference between showing initiative and dominating?

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They say that success is about setting a target and going for it. This has become the action set for showing initiative. Leaders expect it and deliver it. Authors write about it and keynoters herald it. Well it’s true if you are working alone!

What happens if you, as an individual, set a goal on a team and go for it? You may get the nickname “Napoleon”! Team members with lots of drive sometimes drive over team members and create teamwork problems.

It’s worth a moment to ask yourselves, how you are coming across?


Are you showing initiative or dominating and seizing power?


Teamwork: Initiating Without Dominating

Showing initiative on a team requires peripheral vision. It means constantly surveying to see how others are responding, involved and interacting. Else initiative turns into domination.

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Initiating on a team …

  • Volunteering to start the discussion and waiting to see the response
  • Asking others for their thoughts
  • Offering ideas and possible solutions
  • Contributing your knowledge and honoring others’ experience
  • Asking questions and waiting to see if others want to discuss
  • Checking for reactions, involvement, and agreement
  • Working with the belief that results come through the whole team not just through your initiative

Key Reminder: Taking the team’s pulse, waiting for a response and input, and working toward agreement do not neutralize initiative and results; they strengthen them.

Dominating on a team …

  • Insisting on certain communication mechanisms the team will use
  • Setting the agenda for the team either directly or indirectly
  • Expressing your thoughts without hearing others’ views
  • Always going first in every discussion
  • Volunteering to do many things and resisting input when you’re working on those things
  • Using your knowledge to get what you want and think is best for everyone

Key Reminder: If you prescribe what mechanisms team members will use to communicate, you are in essence seizing control of the team. Communication and adaptability are the oxygen of teamwork. Your single-minded view and actions suffocate it.

Not sure you agree with this? Think about a common strategy for an army to dominate and win a war. Cut off the other side’s supply chain and obstruct or control their communication!

Instead of insisting on the latest communication mechanisms that you know and love, ask the team: What communication mechanism(s) do we all currently use? Everyone will be more likely to use it, use it well, update the team frequently, and feel acknowledged. When you ask that question you will be seen as showing teamwork initiative not dominating.

4 Ways to Prevent Dominating

  1. If you find yourself thinking or saying, “I’m only doing what is best for the team”, stop and find out if the team agrees! That thought is very presumptuous. Teamwork needs openness.
  2. Ask yourself, “How comfortable am I with how I am interacting?” If your answer is “I’m in heaven.”, find out how comfortable others are with what you’re doing. The more comfortable you are, the greater the chance you’re overlooking others’ needs.
  3. Before you go into a team meeting, close your eyes and picture someone dominating you. What are they doing? Don’t do that! Respect everyone and contribute to teamwork.
  4. If you are the official leader of the team, be careful of recognizing and reinforcing team members who dominate. Model, recognize, and appreciate true teamwork initiative.

If you communicate for power, get ready for a power failure!

If you interact well, you power up success!

What would like to add to this discussion: cultural differences, generational impact, your own experience?

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

Related posts:
People Skills Truths to Unstick Teamwork
Teamwork: 12 Most Beneficial People Skills

©2013 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

9 Responses to “Teamwork #Peopleskills: Keys to Initiating Not Dominating”

  1. Jon Mertz says:

    Excellent points, Kate. It is so easy to get caught up in ourselves that we lose the best a team can offer and do.

    Another important consideration is to set the right context upfront. What I mean is set an open context to what the goals are and the desire for the forthcoming interactions. Too often, the context is restricted or undefined. When this happens, teams can easily get off track and dominated by an individual or two.

    Thanks for raising awareness on how enhance team productivity and effectiveness!


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Aah Jon, you highlight a key point: Teams that discuss how they will interact (not just the goals) enhance their productivity, effectiveness, and success path.

      I think one of the most important things to do on a team, is to establish some catch word or phrase that anyone can use when they sense people aren’t willing to listen. It keeps the team from straying back into dominant traits.

      Thank you so much for adding your voice here!
      Warmest regards,

  2. JoyGuthrie says:

    Great post, Kate! Early on in our company, we worked with a group that had a hard time dealing with dominating individuals. We suggested that they try something for a short term to reduce that problem. What did we suggest? Each person in the meeting gets 10 pennies at the start of the meeting. Each contribution you make costs you a penny. When you’re out of pennies, you are a listener only. We had the team do that for a short period of time. Yes, it was a “silly” exercise; but, it served a purpose to open eyes to the dominators. Their behavior shifted as their eyes were openned. Thanks, Kate!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Joy,
      Interesting approach! It would certainly work in terms of volume.

      There are also those who dominate quietly by speaking less but being intransigent in their opinion. When they speak they take everybody in a direction with the assumption that the decision is made — when it isn’t. Speaking up and and asking if a decision was made also works in these cases.

      Thank you so much for contributing the “pennies” exercise. Very very interesting.

      Warmest regards,

  3. Khalid says:

    I had to sleep on that post before replying as it rang a bell to me and made me think of my recent team suggestions!

    It looks that I was dominating the team with my decision to go for a typical storage brand for our data center which I (and that what made me rethink when I used the “I”) persistently was pointing the team for the choice I (another “I”) think is the best for the company.

    Thanks for the right on time alert 🙂 I think I should be a better listener than pushing for something which the team might have a different view of.


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Khalid your willingness to consider, learn, stretch, and grow is what makes you great. When we can take feedback and learn from it, we show ourselves to be both intelligent and caring for others.

      You are always so willing to share your stories here and it helps everyone.

      Thank you — truly.

  4. Dan says:

    Excellent, Kate. It’s so easy to dominate in inadvertent ways; then justify the behavior as just being for the good of the team. It’s particularly ironic when someone who especially values personal accountability and performance becomes dominating because he or she assumes that others care less about these core values. When an individual is “hooked” in this way, it’s often hard for the person to recognize themselves as controlling, and the dominating then becomes a real blind spot. Underneath all that, of course, is a genuine person who could use guidance and coaching and a true understanding of the counterproductive nature of their behaviors. Helping the person get some open and direct feedback from other members of the team could be a good start.

    All the best

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Dan,
      Ironic for sure Dan and full of presumption when (as you say) “someone who especially values personal accountability and performance becomes dominating because he or she assumes that others care less about these core values.” Coaching can certainly help in the long run if they are at least willing to consider they have a blind spot.

      The legacy they leave about the current behaviors is unfortunately very damaging. They send so many negative messages — “I’m right/you’re wrong.” “I count/you don’t.” “I care about me not you.”
      The loss of trust is huge. The power struggles great. And the dynamics can breed mistrust between the other team members.

      Perhaps the most important coaching is for the “dominators” to learn to take behavioral feedback from teammates in the moment. Else teammates will also feel they will be at the mercy of the dominators blind spots.

      Inadvertent unintended behavior doesn’t have to leave deep scars if those doing it are willing and able to take feedback in the moment.

      Thank you so much for your perspective! This is a very important topic for teams.

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